FRANKFURT -- BMW will expand its minivan lineup with the seven-seat 2-series Gran Tourer that will go on sale in Europe in June.
The addition of the latest 2-series variant, which will join the five-seat 2-series Active Tourer in BMW's European lineup, gives the automaker another compact-sized model aimed at luring customers such as young families who would not have considered buying a premium car.
The 2-series Gran Tourer will be unveiled March 3 at the Geneva auto show. It will be the second BMW brand model to be front-wheel-drive after the 2-series Active Tourer.
Compacts such as the 1 series compact car and X1 crossover already have helped BMW to boost global sales to record levels by winning buyers from volume brands such as Volkswagen, Opel/Vauxhall and Ford in Europe and abroad.
At 4560mm long, 1800mm wide and 1610mm tall the 2-series Gran Tourer, is slightly larger than the Opel/Vauxhall Zafira but smaller than the Volkswagen Touran.
The 2-series Gran Tourer, which will start at 26,950 euros in Germany, is one of the 15 new or revised models planned for 2015 by the BMW Group, which includes the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands.
BMW launched the 2-series Active Tourer in Europe in September to compete with the Mercedes B class. BMW delivered nearly 13,100 2-series Active Tourers to customers during the three months it was on sale. Three out of four 2-series Active Tourer customers were expected to be new to the brand, according to company officials.
IHS Automotive forecasts peak annual sales of 55,000 units for the 2-series Gran Tourer, about 20,000 less than the peak of the Active Tourer. "BMW's strategy appears to be to line up offerings against mid-market OEMs and take sales from these vehicles and brands, with some customers always willing to pay more for a premium badge on their vehicle," IHS Automotive Principal Analyst, Tim Urquhart, said in a statement. Product planners and company accountants will be closely watching the return on investment for the two minivans, he said.
China but no U.S.
BMW will start selling the 2-series Gran Tourer in China in June. It will export the vehicle to the world’s largest auto market from its factory in Regensburg, Germany. The model will not be sold in the U.S. because of weak demand for premium compact minivans in the market, a BMW spokeswoman said.
BMW’s increasing commitment to minivans is a big strategy shift. In the past, premium brands avoided the segment because they thought having a minivan could alienate their existing customer base. Audi’s A2 small minivan flopped, in part because of its expensive all-aluminum body, while the larger Mercedes-Benz R class was a commercial flop in Europe and the U.S. and now is only sold in China.
Like the 2-series Active Tourer, the 2-series Gran Tourer will use BMW Group’s new UKL front-wheel-drive architecture, which is also used for the new Mini and could eventually underpin a dozen BMWs.