Carsten Priest is the head of product planning at BMW's M Division, and BMW Individual. He worked on the BMW X5 M and X6 M, and is heavily involved in the development of the new M5, which made its public debut at the Shanghai Motor Show.
Q. Describe to us the ways in which BMW’s M Division has changed in recent years.
A. Our portfolio has grown, and we have extended the range of cars we offer. Within that, there have been many important milestones, including the launch of the X5 M and the X6 M – both of which use the twin turbo V8 we will use in the M5 saloon. We are also launching the new M1. At the heart of this, we are aiming for further development of our vehicles dynamic appeal and we have a sharper focus on efficiency than ever before.
Q. Given the wide range of vehicles described above, can you grow your offering any further?
A. For us, there is no finish line. My background is BMW Motorsport, and the philosophy that helped us win races here also helps us develop our cars further. In terms of the cars we are producing, we are always looking for an unmatched combination of performance and efficiency. That emotional quality is very important for us too. Take the limited edition BMW M3 GTS as an example, this is a really emotional product. We can do more like this – we already have plans to do something similar with our M3 saloon.
Q. There’s lots of talk of efficiency. Can a twin turbo V8 like the M5 ever really be described as efficient?
A. I think so, yes. Of course, if you drive the car very fast, it will use a lot of fuel. But with an holistic approach to the car’s design, we can optimise the whole car to offer better fuel economy. Improvements to the engine and gearbox are just one part of the challenge. We must also save weight, and improve the aerodynamics. The new M5 is really pushing the envelope in this regard.
Q. Are Chinese drivers ready for cars like the M5, what is it that they are looking for?
A. Performance and prestige help us sell cars like the new M5 in China. Drivers here make deliberate decision. Yes, it’s true this sector of the market is still comparatively new, but communties are emerging. Owners take their cars to racetracks, and with programmes like our MPower experience, which we run in Shanghai, we are introducing an entire generation of divers to the performance of our cars.