BMW: World’s Mega-Cities Need a Mega-Fast Car

How perfect is this. The Granite concept car, the Chevy Aveo with a miniaturized SUV snout touted by GMC as a "tool for urban living," has taken top honors in its design category at the Detroit Auto Show.

bmw.jpgThe foundation for BMW’s urban vehicle of the future. Photo: Wheels

Alas, while the Granite will probably never see the light of day, engineers at the BMW stall are hard at work developing their own entry for emerging urban markets. Wheels reports:

There are more than 20 megacities with populations of more than 10 million around the world (with Tokyo the most populous). Asia has more than any other region, but New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Lagos and London are also megacities. According to a BMW news release, Project i set out to "research and develop transportation strategies and new types of vehicles specifically to meet the needs of the world’s growing megacities."

To get real-world information, [project head Ulrich] Kranz said, "We went out and talked to city planners. And we visited potential customers living in megacities such as Los Angeles, London, Tokyo and Shanghai. We lived a couple of days with them. We wanted to see not only what they said about their driving habits, but also what they actually did when they drove to work."

Other than its electric engine (it’s green!), it’s unclear how a private vehicle with "a trunk and four seats" will be all that different from
your average congestion-causing, pedestrian-endangering, space-hogging BMW. Based on promotional copy, the lighter weight of the ActiveE concept is intended to improve "performance" and speed — BMW boasts of its ability to "accelerate from 0-60 in under 9 seconds." What urban motorist doesn’t need that?

If nothing else, the company says its "Project i" research could "be useful for future sales and marketing campaigns." So maybe at an upcoming auto show BMW will unveil its own GMC Granite, an ordinary car with a few bells and whistles and a meaningless slogan designed to make city drivers feel good about shunning public transit and other urban-friendly modes. While peeling out at the light whenever possible.

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