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BMW M boss Markus Flasch: "An independent M model will come"

The manager gave auto motor und sport his first interview as M boss, now his last, then assumes responsibility for the BMW middle and luxury class series. In the conversation, he takes stock and gives an outlook.

Mr. Flasch, after three years at BMW M GmbH: What have you learned?

Above all, I learned that if you fight for the things that are important to you and should definitely be done, they will also be implemented. We have changed some things for the better on both the product and the organizational side, especially the merger of M and motorsport. What had long since belonged together came together. It was also great to find a fan base at M that you can communicate with directly and get immediate feedback. That doesn't usually happen in the auto industry.

And which experience would you have preferred not to have?

Oh, there is nothing serious. Of course, if you expand your social media activities like we have, the posts will also be commented on by notorious whiners. You have to get over it.

For which things that were important to you did you have to fight particularly hard?

It was not clear to everyone in the company that M GmbH would also be heading towards partial and full electrification when the technology was ready. There was a lot of convincing to do. And there was also a lot of discussion about the question of whether motorsport has a future and if so, what that could look like. There were very contrasting views in the group. But behind the program that was ultimately adopted, everyone is really behind it.

Which model did you have to fight particularly hard for?

This certainly includes the M3 Touring, because it was never part of a company-wide strategy. It was designed by creative minds in Garching and suddenly emerged from the workshop like a submarine. And it was done so convincingly that we received approval for series production very quickly. For me, this is also a sign that the organization is extremely healthy, committed and intrinsically motivated.

Well, the idea of ​​the M3 Touring isn't really new. Why is he coming now?

The conditions have never been so favorable, since the rear axles of the sedan and touring are identical in concept in the G20 generation of the 3 Series. In addition, we are offering the latest M3/M4 generation for the first time with our M xDrive all-wheel drive system as an option, which is indispensable in the high-performance station wagon segment.

Now that you are handing over the management of M GmbH, there is at least an all-electric M Performance model, and a second will follow soon. And what about a high-performance model?

Now we have the i40 M50 and soon another performance model based on the new iX.Then we will soon be showing the concept of an electrified high-performance model. And as part of the new class, there will be a large number of high-performance BEVs.

How important is the all-electric range for a high-performance plug-in hybrid?

Our approach is that the car has an eligible electric range so that it is also useful in inner-city operations.

Are there any synergies with the LMDh Motorsport project you have announced for 2023?

The combustion engine in the LMDh can be defined by each manufacturer himself, as can the power electronics, only the hybrid electric hardware is standard technology. There are definitely similarities with the high-performance hybrid for upcoming street models like the concept already mentioned. This drive would also be conceivable for the next M5, technology from long-distance racing for our long-distance road models, so to speak.

When M GmbH and the motorsport department were brought together, the focus was on organizational matters. When will the first products benefit from this step?

I only had one year for that, because I was previously busy with M, the initiation of the transformation and the preparation of the production start-up. Incidentally, we have found that a great many young people are still enthusiastic about motorsport. So this isn't just for the older generations. So the integration of motorsport was very important. Motorsport is now a central anchor of the BMW M brand. The first car to emerge under this influence is the M4 GT3. It is also the first racing car since the DTM-M3 E30 to be built in Garching again, in some cases even by the same people. The M4 GT4 will follow next year. And in 2023 we will be at the start with the LMDh car in Daytona. This makes the motorsport program as stringent as possible.

Back on the road: In our first interview three years ago, you said that an independent M model does not necessarily have to be a sports car. According to our information, the mentioned concept with PHEV goes in the crossover direction. So is this the first standalone M model since the M1?

Well, there will definitely be a standalone M model again.

Maybe a sports car after all?

Our brand core is still racing and high performance on the road. However, we also want to retain customers who like expressive luxury. With the M8 and its derivatives we have already succeeded in part, but there is a segment in which there is a lot going on and in which we are not yet represented. I can not say more about that.

You also said at the time that you would provide a series of emotional special models. With the M2 CS and M5 CS you have already delivered.Can you now confirm an M4 CSL? You can see prototypes driving around there...

From this point of view, the car is an open secret. In contrast to the other two models you mentioned, the four-seat configuration is irrelevant. The car is significantly more streamlined and pointed than a CS.

So we can count on weight savings in the three-digit range?

Yes, we are aiming for a three-digit weight saving.

...and it's definitely a non-electrified model. How do you get the M combustion engines ready for the Euro7 emissions standard?

Don't worry, we have found technical solutions to keep our in-line six-cylinder combustion engine on offer at least until the end of the decade - for both road and racing vehicles.

What do these solutions look like?

I can't go into detail about that. In any case, we have dealt intensively with the combustion process in order to be able to do without space- and weight-consuming ancillary units. No matter how sharp EU7 gets, we know our approach works. Incidentally, this also applies to our V8 engine.

So downsizing is no longer necessary, for example in the form of an electrified four-cylinder engine?

In the high-performance area, we are currently not dealing with it.

You mentioned the direct line to the customers earlier. If you look at that, how far away is M from a purely electric model range today? 15, 20, 25 years or even longer?

It's not about giving a categorical answer to such a question. We want and must remain able to act. Fully electric driving is also the future for BMW M. But when? That is not clear at the moment, also because the combustion engine will continue to play a major role in customer and top motorsport for a very long time. For this reason alone, an offer in the series area is needed. But I can promise: From the second half of the decade, we will have all drive types on offer, i.e. combustion engines, high-performance hybrids and purely electric, which complement each other perfectly.

But an electric touring car is not in sight yet?

The bait has to taste good to the fish. I don't believe in pushing something on someone that only we believe is right. We currently see neither the need nor the willingness of the teams to use such a car. I don't want to abuse racing to create artificial enthusiasm. You can't force anyone to be enthusiastic. There is also evidence of this in motorsport.

So not even a one-make cup with e-vehicles?

For us, the M2 CS Racing Cup as part of the DTM is primarily an instrument for promoting young talent.It doesn't make sense to put young talent in an electric car just to promote a technology, and the drivers can't apply what they learn there to the next stages of their careers because the vehicles there are completely different. Training is very important to me in motorsport, which is why we have re-established the BMW Junior Team, for which Jochen Neerpasch has taken on the role of mentor. This also helps the community grow and doesn't give the impression that we want to artificially generate enthusiasm.

You are a few days too old for the Junior Team, but this year you took your first steps in car racing. How was it?

When I took over the motorsport area, it was clear that I would have to race myself to understand the topic. I set myself a clear goal and that was to take part in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. A training program was set up accordingly. This gave me an understanding of how customer motorsport works and I also learned something about top motorsport – and what it means to develop a controllable racing car, right up to the M4 GT3. But the 24-hour race is definitely one of the most spectacular things I've experienced in my life, with all imaginable emotional states from fear to euphoria. The respect for those athletes, some of whom have been doing this at the top level for decades, has grown considerably as a result.

CV

Markus Flasch, born 1980 in Salzburg, Austria. From 1999 to 2003 he studied automotive engineering in Graz, graduating with a master's degree. Further degree: 2004, graduate engineer. The engineer wrote his diploma thesis on the headwind sensitivity of automobiles using the example of the Audi A2 TDI 3L. Flasch then worked at Magna, most recently as Director Operations & Quality Europe. On June 1, 2015, he started at BMW as the person responsible for quality for the luxury class. Before moving to M GmbH on October 1, 2018, he headed the development of the eight-series. Since November 1, 2021, he has been responsible for the mid-range and luxury-class series from BMW, which are being combined in one department for the first time. A station that is considered a test for the job as a development director within the group. In his function as Managing Director of M GmbH, he took part in the 24-hour race on the Nürburgring in an M2 CS Racing, but he began his racetrack career on a motorcycle. Flasch is married with two children. He lives with his family on a farm in Pongau near Salzburg. In order to acquire it, the manager had to complete basic agricultural training. But a farmer from the neighborhood takes care of the usable land and the ten sheep.

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