While exact details of the 1-series range remain sketchy, it is understood that derivatives, probably a saloon and possibly an estate, will be 'Volkswagen Golf size' - making them shorter than the 3-series Compact but larger than the MINI - and will cost from about £13,000. Meanwhile, the 6-series - the name has not been seen since the late 1980s - will be a coupe based on the 5-series and there will also be a convertible.
The announcement of the two new model ranges was made by BMW AG chairman Professor Dr Joachim Milberg at Geneva where the manufacturer revealed three new models for the first time. The addition of the 1-series will give first-time access for many company car drivers to a BMW and attract user-choosers. As prestige brands enter previously uncharted territories - most recently Jaguar with S-type - they are reaping immediate company car sales success.
For almost a year, BMW has made no secret of its plans for a small car. However, it has consistently been believed the model would be the 2-series. Milberg's announcement of the 1-series - which will be the only car in its class with rear wheel drive - clearly defines the entry level for the BMW brand. A UK spokesman told Fleet NewsNet that last year's sale of Rover Group, and to a lesser extent Land Rover, had given it 'an opportunity to reinvigorate and revive products we have wanted to launch for some time'.
Referring to Rover Group's financial drain on BMW and its product line-up, the spokesman said: 'While owning Rover we were not able to embrace such opportunities. 1-series would never have been possible with Rover. We have wanted 6-series for some time but it had fallen by the wayside.'
If tradition is to be followed it is likely that odd numbered BMW ranges will spawn saloons and estate variants with even numbered models being coupes, giving rise to the possibility of 2-series and 4-series ranges.