Malcolm Flynn | Nov 22, 2012

BMW’s new front-wheel drive UKL architecture will underpin up to 12 future BMW group models, according to industry site Automotive News.

BMW is banking on these models to retain its current best-selling premium manufacturer status in Europe, as it expects the premium small segment to become the fastest growing in Europe ahead of 2020.

Research company IHS Automotive projects that UKL-based models could sell 960,000 units annually by 2020, constituting nearly 40 percent of the group’s projected volume for that year.

Previewed by the Active Tourer concept, the UKL platform is expected to debut beneath the 2013 MINI Cooper range later this year, followed by the 1 Series GT later in 2013.

Further models will reportedly follow in rapid succession.

"One of the big advantages of UKL is that we are able to launch a lot of products almost simultaneously because we are doing the engineering at once", BMW sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson said.

"There will be several options for different wheel bases and widths of upcoming models. With one model family, we can do a typical front-wheel hatchback, a larger hatchback, or a small SUV”, BMW purchasing boss Klaus Draeger said.

“We can use that architecture not only for the Mini but also for other BMW products that are a little bit bigger and higher and more spacious with a bigger interior."

However, the 3 Series and larger ranges are set to remain rear-wheel drive for the foreseeable future.

“These are powerful cars so I really don't see a front-wheel-drive model in this segment as being a successful," Draeger added.

For lesser-powered small models, BMW is confident that the UKL architecture will offer a drive experience to address scepticism of its departure from rear-wheel drive.

"In the '90s we broke with tradition when we began selling SUVs along with our sedans", UKL project manager Frank Niederlaender said.

"Customers realised they could get the driving dynamics BMW is renowned for, from an SUV. We will see the same transition happening with front-wheel drive."

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