Co.Design

BMW's Starting a New Eco-Brand. What Gives?

What's behind the new name for BMW's forthcoming electric car?

The latest off BMW's concept assembly line is a stubby, decidedly unsexy eco-car — equal parts Mini, VW bug, and Trabi — that's getting its very own sub-brand. They call it the Megacity Vehicle or MCV, and its latest design was just revealed last week.

It's an all-electric car—similar to the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt—and as the name suggests, it's designed explicitly to putter around big cities (just like Ford's newest concept). The details of its design are murky, but what we do know is this: It'll be a rear-wheel four-seater. It'll have a lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic body to offset the heft of the battery. And, unlike most of BMW's green concept cars (see here and here) it'll actually be mass produced.

Obviously, BMW is known for its sexy, high-performance wheels, and obviously, the Megacity Vehicle is something of a departure — and not in the cool, arthouse way of the Chris Bangle era. If the renderings are any indication, the MCV is cool but a tad safe. And maybe that's the point.

The car is the direct product of market research on city dwellers, who are expected to make up more than 70 percent of the global population by 2050. BMW is recognizing that it needs to change course to respond to a shifting demographic. As the company's design director, Adrian Van Hooydonk, told Wallpaper: "The car will be attractive but not controversial" — which is the car-world equivalent of calling a girl "nice."

That brings us back to the sub-brand. Is it really necessary? Van Hooydonk goes on to say that it "offers a chance to innovate as well as feature BMW's customary design quality and detailing." Reading between the lines, he might be alluding to idea that the BMW brand itself limits the scope of the kind of green vehicles the company can produce. If BMW is going to stretch its appeal beyond law-firm partners and i-bankers to bleeding-heart city folks (still rich, but blessed with a soul), it'll have to add another dimension to its playboy image. Or maybe BMW's merely creating a pleasant little ghetto for its crunchier endeavors, at a safe remove from the company's standard fare. It's salient to note that this sort of sub-brand strategy has worked pretty well for BMW already, with the Mini brand — and it's probably no accident that the MCV looks so much like the Mini in profile. Building these things off of a mini platform would save a lot of money.

Whatever the story, we've got until 2013 to mull it over. That's when the car's scheduled to go into production.

[Images via TopSpeed]

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1 Comments

  • Paddy Harrington

    Big mistake. Why compartmentalize intelligence? Does this mean that the rest of BMW's cars aren't smart? Look at Tesla. Smart and sexy. That's where it's at.