Interview Frank van Meel - BMW M CEO
By Marc Rutten
The introduction of the brand new BMW M2 Competition marked the opportunity for me to sit down with BMW M’s Boss, Frank van Meel, to discuss the future of the brand that has pioneered concepts that guarantee pure driving pleasure, encompasses an history of motorsport and sheer driving passion every single day - on the road or on the track.
A few days ago at an undisclosed location near Munich, Frank ran me through the highlights of the M2 Competition during an exclusive first look at the vehicle. The M2C is the replacement to the current M2, which has been with us for the last two years. The highly successful and best-selling M-car has proved that the market was desperately looking for a M-car positioned at a lower price point.
With the M2, the Germans found a sweet spot positioned in between the hot hatch market, with models such as the Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R and the Volkswagen Golf GTI and more expensive sports car like the Porsche Cayman (S) and Audi TT-RS. With the release of the M2 Competition, BMW M aims to keep this position and strengthen it with a more capable vehicle still based around a winning formula.
MR: What is the story/idea behind the M2 Competition?
FvM: The main idea behind the M2 Competition is the aim for us as a brand to develop a four-way product line up for BMW M models, the so called; Base, Competition, CS and CSL model hierarchy. This is our aim for the future, and therefore a M2 Competition model was the logical next step in the lineup of the M2.
MR: What does the M in the M2 Competition stand for?
MR: In what way is the M2 Competition an evolution of something that should perhaps have been there from the beginning?
FvM: The initial M2 was always intended to be like it is now and has been over the past years. The newly developed M2 Competition is based on a large number of ideas we had internally and, was in my opinion a natural development following the success of the base M2 Coupé. The steps we have taken on driving dynamics and performance are in my opinion the right steps and a natural development within the timeline of the model. Although there was never a requirement from within the market to create the M2 Competition.
MR: Why opt for the S55 engine and introduce such a massive change to the key character of the M2?
FvM: During the development of the M2 Competition, we faced a major challenge with regards to the N55 engine due to a number of reasons. First of all, we felt we pushed the engine performance to its limits. 370 horsepower is a great number, but we wanted more. Secondly, we needed changes to meet the new European emissions standards, and so a business decision was made to move to the S55 engine and develop a brand new exhaust system for the M2 Competition which includes the same particulate filter as on the M4.
MR: Would you have kept the base M2 available for sale, if the WLTP would not have played any role in the decision making process?
FvM: Yes, the production of the M2 LCI would not come to an end this summer if the WLTP did not play a role. We would have continued the M2 next to the M2 Competition and both cars would have been built alongside each other at the factory in Leipzig, Germany.
MR: In what way did you listen to the existing customer base and included their remarks in this new car?
FvM: We have most definitely taken notice of what the current customer base and community has shared with us. We looked at where we could improve the package for the M2 Competition. The main change following comments was adding the M mirrors. The majority of the customers wondered why they were missing on the base M2 Coupé and therefore we added them. They are the same mirrors used on the M3 and M4 models. Other changes such as the new M Sports seats, M sports brake kit and the tweaked suspension will also be greatly appreciated by the customer base. Especially those would like to have that additional performance, a key asset of the Competition range.
MR: How did you separate the M2 Competition from the base M4 and made sure the price tag did not increase too much?
FvM: Interesting question. Pricing will be revealed mid-May so I cannot comment on the exact price levels of the M2 Competition yet, but I can ensure you that we looked thoroughly into positioning the vehicle between the outgoing M2 LCI and the base M4. This is the main reason why we didn’t add a carbon fiber roof, adaptive suspension or ceramic brakes to the M2 Competition. We really wanted to make sure that the M2 differentiates itself from its bigger brother both on specification level and price tag. The base price will not increase drastically!
MR: When does the M2 Competition hit markets across the globe?
FvM: Production of the new M2 Competition starts this Summer. The initial deliveries will start end of August or early September depending on your market. We intend to supply and produce for the U.S. market first, since it is our most popular market for the M2. Still, due to the transport time to the U.S., the time frame of the first deliveries are expected to be quite similar across the world.
MR: Will you follow the same path as with the M3/M4 doing a special limited run before the production ends?
FvM: Unfortunately, I cannot comment on any future models, but with our future focus on a four model hierarchy I leave it up to you to decide if you would like to see more M2 derivatives in the future.
MR: If you would spec a M2 Competition what would you include in the specification? Which color would you go for? DCT vs manual?
FvM: As a Dutchman, I would opt for Sunset Orange as the exterior color. I would opt for the optional M wheels, take the manual gearbox and the M Sports brake kit, simply because the grey calipers look a lot better with the Orange body color. On the inside, I would go for the M Sports seats with matching orange stitching. To finish off the specification, I would add M Performance parts, like the carbon fiber mirror caps, carbon fiber diffuser and carbon fiber rear spoiler. The Alcantara M Performance steering wheel is something that belongs to the CS and CSL line up, and is not something I would personally opt for.
MR: What would you like to say to the owners that currently drive a M2? What should they do? Should they move to the M2 Competition?
FvM: First of all, I would like to say; you have made the best possible decision. Great choice! If you feel like it, cannot resist the change or you are in the market for a new car, then please do upgrade to the new M2 Competition. You will love it! If you are not, then please stay with your beloved M2. Enjoy it, drive it, make it your own and be sure to keep that M smile on your face through every single mile or kilometer. In the end, both cars are quite different, but have an extremely strong character that is unique to the 2-Series M line up.
MR: What is currently favorite model in the current M line up?
FvM: Uhmmmm, this is almost an impossible question to answer. It is like asking a father which of his kids is his favourite. Today, he may favor the youngest, the next day it is the eldest. I am in the lucky position that I can cherish, love and favor all the cars in the M line up at any moment of the day.
MR: Do you have any last words to those diehard M fans and followers within the community across the globe?
FvM: As the CEO of BMW M, I am really grateful for the fact that we have such a huge community of true fans and ultimate car girls & guys that support our brand and enjoy our products. All I can say to them is that I hope that they keep enjoying their moments behind the wheel of any M car and that they will share the emotion of the most powerful letter in the world among their friends and fellow petrol- and gearheads alike.
Don't forget to check out my first look at the BMW M2 Competition right here on DriveTribe.