With the expectation of record earnings in 2004, BMW is preparing a host of new models, including ones powered by turbocharged petrol engines.

With the expectation of record earnings in 2004, BMW is preparing a host of new models, including ones powered by turbocharged petrol engines.

The Munich-based manufacturer reported record earnings this year following the introduction of the X3 and other models. And this year, the company plans to exceed the record profits achieved in 2002, when it reached R16,8 billion, chief executive Helmut Panke said this week.

BMW's new product wave has begun with the release of the X3 and 6 Series, and the imminent release of the 5 Series touring and the VW Golf challenger, the 1 Series in another bid to topple DaimlerChrysler as the leading luxury manufacturer.

Despite this news, BMW stock has fallen 6,3 per cent this year, but Panke remains optimistic. He expects March sales to be the best to date and said the first quarter results would exceed that of the same period last year.

The sourcing of foreign car parts will be increased to counter the effects of currency fluctuations. Manufacturing will also increase at plants with spare capacity, potentially ramping up production to the current maximum of 1,1 million vehicles annually.

And with many things automotive now becoming bigger, BMW is also developing two high-roofed MPVs.

Under development for more than a year, the company has not approved the new MPVs yet, but senior officials have said that these developments are being scrupulously watched.

"The vehicles are in pre-budget," Burkhard Goeschel, head of the MPV project told . "Now we have to decide whether to do it."

"Normally we would not work on a van," Goeschel said. Designing a high-roof vehicle with sporty handling "is not an easy task" and sporty handling is mandatory or BMW won't approve the project, he added.

If approved, possibly this year, the vehicles will mark BMW's entry into another non-traditional product to the luxury market, Goeschel added.

The larger MPV would either be built on the X5 or 5 Series platform, while the smaller would use either the X3 or 3 Series platform. Motive power will come from either V8 or six-cylinder engines.

In another break from tradition, BMW will offer turbo-charged engines in its main models in the next few years.

This is in an attempt to bridge the power gap between the top-of-the-line models and the high-powered M models.

The BMW M5, unveiled at the recent Geneva show, has a F1-inspired V10 engine producing about 370 kW while the next M3 will be fitted with a V8 engine.

The turbo-charged engines with direct petrol injection could fill the major power gap between the M models and the remaining top-of-the-range versions, a BMW source was quoted as saying. However, they will not come with the body and chassis modifications seen on the M derivatives.

The high-powered M versions will remain normally aspirated.

Original article from Car