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This man is changing BMW's fastest cars forever
TALK about nominative determinism. If there's a car executive who embodies the theory that people are suited to jobs that match their names, surely it's Markus Flasch. For a year now, he has been the chairman of BMW M, and who better to lead BMW's high performance subsidiary than someone whose first name starts with M and whose last name sounds like "flash"?
BMWs that sport an "M" badge on the tail generally aren't for the faint-hearted. With a 625 horsepower engine, the M8 Competition Coupe reviewed by The Business Times this week accelerates to 100km/h in a speedy 3.2 seconds.
That makes it faster than high-performance heroes such as the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera or the Lamborghini Huracan RWD.
For Mr Flasch, the letter that signifies BMW's hottest cars has a very clear meaning. "M stands for agility, precision and performance," he told The Business Times. "We consider M to be the most powerful letter in the world."
The operation doesn't manufacture its own cars - it has around 800 employees who are engaged in engineering, marketing, finance, sales and management - but BMW M is thriving. Last year it sold a record 100,000 cars, and Mr Flasch says this year the subsidiary is on track to sell 120,000. In comparison, the entire Jaguar brand only recorded 180,000 sales in its last fiscal year.
While high performance junkies can't seem to get enough of its cars today, Mr Flasch says one of his longer-term tasks is to prepare BMW M for the future. After taking over as chairman, he put making the brand's cars compatible with eco-friendliness on his "to-do" list.
"The dominating request (from customers), of course, is performance and character, but on the other hand, our customers also want to have social acceptance," he told BT. "Being sustainable is like a prerequisite to enter the high performance segment nowadays."
Achieving that means adding electric drive to BMW M's cars.
The good news for Mr Flasch: the engineers at M are free to raid the technology larder at BMW i, the parent company's eco-focused division. Mr Flasch said that his team can cherry pick whatever fuel-saving tech from BMW i that they deem suitable for their fast cars.
"When we look back, M has always developed its performance character and we have never been dogmatic about one particular technical solution," he said. "We have added turbocharging to our combustion engines. We have put all-wheel drive in our cars. So the next step will be electrification, and there is no question that we will in the foreseeable future see electrified M cars."
Until then, however, BMW M's current playbook will deliver plenty. Apart from the M8 Coupe, the brand launched the steroid-enhanced BMW X3 M and X4 M sport utility vehicles this year. Just this month it took the wraps off the X5 M and X6 M (both available with up to 625 horsepower).
Next up is the M8 Gran Coupe, a stretched, four-door version of the M8 that will make its global debut at November's Los Angeles car show. Its introduction will cap off an intense 2019 for the subsidiary, but its new chairman's first year must seem like it went by in a flash.