PASADENA, USA - BMW is building its new Z8 super-roadster for prestige, not profit.
'Based on our sales forecasts, the Z8 will not make any money throughout its entire life cycle,' said BMW AG board member Wolfgang Ziebart.
But Ziebart admitted BMW's sales estimates were conservative and said early indications were that Z8 demand 'would exceed our forecasts.'
If that level of demand continues, 'we might eventually end up with a small profit,' said Ziebart.
BMW wants the Z8 to enhance its image as a maker of desirable, high-performance sports cars. In Germany, the Z8 will cost DM235,000 (A119,025). Investment and development costs were about DM500 million.
BMW expects the Z8's life cycle to last about seven years. No mid-term facelifts are planned.
'At the moment we are regarding the Z8 as a standalone product,' said Ziebart. 'There will be no coupe, as the car comes with a hard top as standard equipment.'
The Z8 was showcased in last year's James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. The car is already sold out until mid-2001. Premiums as high as $300,000 are being offered in newspaper advertisements in the USA for prompt delivery. The Z8 goes on sale officially in April.
The Z8's aluminum body panels and the spaceframe chassis are assembled at BMW's plant in Dingolfing, Germany. The parts are then transported to Munich, where full assembly takes place. BMW expects to turn out up to nine cars a day. Maximum capacity is 2,000 units a year.
All BMW dealers worldwide are entitled to sell and service the Z8. However, any repair work that involves body panel or spaceframe welding has to be carried out by a small number of qualified dealers in each country.
BMW chose spaceframe technology mainly for cost reasons. 'It is the most economic way to build a car in small numbers, and it offers extreme chassis stiffness,' said Ziebart.
Main markets for the Z8 will be the USA (50 percent of sales) and Germany (30 per cent). Only left-hand-drive versions of the car are planned.
The Z8's exterior was styled in Munich by Danish designer Henrik Fisker, who was recently promoted to lead BMW's US design subsidiary Designworks in Newbury Park, California.
Resemblance to the legendary BMW 507 of the 1950s is intended, said Ziebart. The Z8's grille and the side air vents take styling cues from the 507, whose most famous customer was Elvis Presley.
'The Z8 combines the styling elements of the 20th century with the technology of the 21st century,' said Ziebart.
The Z8 uses neon lights for brake and turn signals and a run-flat tire, which eliminates the need for a spare.
The car's interior boasts plenty of aluminum and is dominated by a central instrument panel. There are no dials directly in front of the driver. Leather trim, satellite navigation system and upscale audio system are all standard. BMW says it is offering a comprehensive level of equipment and no traditional 'extras' will be available.
The Z8's 5.0-liter V-8 engine, built by BMW's M-Technik unit, produces 400hp. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard. No automatic versions are available.
The Z8 sprints to 100kph in 4.7 seconds. Its top speed is electronically limited to 250kph.
BMW claims it has produced a modern classic with the Z8, and is guaranteeing parts supply for a minimum of 50 years.