BMW acquires Alpina

BMW acquires Alpina

BMW has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the Alpina brand for over half a century, now it has purchased the Buchloe manufacturer officially making it part of the BMW Group. Founded in 1965, Alpina was active in BMW tuning and motorsport from the 1960s, it began manufacturing passenger BMWs in 1978. In 1983 Alpina was recognised as an official automotive manufacturer with the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, today the Bavarian firm, owned by the Bovensiepen family, employs around 300 people and in 2021 it produced 2,000 vehicles.

Interestingly 2021 was the most successful year in the history of Alpina, which is based in the Ostallgäu district of Bavaria. News came a few weeks ago that the BMW Group had secured the rights to the Alpina name in an agreement said to secure the long-term future of the brand. It follows an extension of the longstanding cooperation agreement between the two parties, which was extended for another five-years in late 2020, expiring at the end of 2025. Both parties have agreed not to disclose any financial details and no shares in the company will be acquired as it enters this new chapter of its life.

BMW says that the global move towards electromobility, and increasing regulation in the automotive world (particularly emissions legislation, software validation and requirements for driver assistance and monitoring systems) poses a significant risk for the survival of small-series manufacturers such as Alpina. The acquisition is termed a 'strategic realignment that will secure the long-term viability of the Buchloe operations'.

“For over fifty years, the Buchloe firm has demonstrated how to deliver top-quality car cachet through meticulous attention to detail. The BMW Group is also driven by this same passion for cars that capture the imagination. That is why we are now embarking on a new chapter in our long-standing partnership. Acquiring the trademark rights will allow us to shape the longterm course of this brand steeped in tradition. We are delighted to welcome the Alpina brand to the BMW family,” said Pieter Nota, member of the Board of Management responsible for Customer, Brands and Sales.

Andreas Bovensiepen, co-managing director of Alpina, added: “We recognised the challenges facing the automotive industry early on and are now setting the right course for Alpina and for our family firm. This marks the beginning of a new chapter. Both the Alpina brand and our company are extremely desirable. We made a conscious decision not to sell Alpina to just any manufacturer, because BMW and Alpina have worked together and trusted one another for decades. That is why it is the right decision strategically for the Alpina brand to be managed by the BMW Group in the future.”

Cooperation between Alpina and BMW will continue as before but in a different form. Alpina will continue to use its engineering expertise in developing, manufacturing, and selling BMW Alpina vehicles as it always has until the end of 2025. Its expertise in the areas of chassis, aerodynamics, and interior equipment will continue to be applied to cars pre-assembled on BMW production lines before heading to Buchloe for Alpina modifications. The service, parts and accessories business for existing and legacy Alpina vehicles will continue to be sited at the Buchloe location in the long term, and there will be no changes to the existing aftersales setup. The wine business that also forms part of the family firm will be unaffected.

The sale and resulting discontinuation of the current Alpina vehicle programme at the end of 2025 will have implications for existing jobs at the Buchloe site. BMW says it will support Alpina with the necessary adjustments to the workforce at the Buchloe location over the coming years. Up until the end of 2025, BMW will work with Alpina to offer those employees who will not be able to continue working at Buchloe a new position with the BMW Group, and it will help them find new jobs with suppliers and development partners.

Sytner has been sole UK concessionaire for Alpina since 1985. Alpina's chassis tweaks have been a highlight in recent years. The brand has created some iconic cars over the decades.

Alpina will continue as it always has until the end of 2025...
Bob Harper Bob Harper 1 year ago #

We hopes Alpina will continue to exist as a separate brand

There’s been a lot of weeping and wailing in my social media feeds of late and I’m not just talking about the global situation where it looks like we’re all going to be heading to hell in a handcart. No, amongst the important stuff there’s been a thread of concern about BMW’s purchase of Alpina with many wondering what will become of the Buchloe-based concern. It seems that many are worried that the absorption of Alpina into the BMW portfolio will inevitably lead to a dilution of the Alpina brand and the spectre of seeing a 2 Series Gran Coupé ‘Alpina Edition’ is, indeed, a worrying one.

Bob cogitates what the future will hold for Alpina.

Many argue that BMW already has form for this and point to the dilution of the M brand with virtually every model in the range now available to buy slathered in M badges, but personally I think this is unlikely to happen with Alpina. The bottom line is that Alpina is a very small niche within the BMW world and while it produces superb cars and has afforded me a huge number of great drives over the years the name just doesn’t have a broad appeal. Sure, among our aficionado niche of the BMW world we may all be familiar with the Alpina name, but in a wider context there are a huge number of folk who just aren’t aware of the company. You have to remember that Alpina made 2,000 cars in 2021… BMW sold 2.2 million.

In global terms these days 2,000 cars a year just isn’t going to cut the mustard. In order to be competitive you have to produce 50 or a hundred machines and charge several million Dollars, Euros or Pounds for each one or churn them out by the million. There just isn’t any room for anyone to occupy the middle ground – virtually every small manufacturer left is part of a much bigger conglomerate.

In truth BMW and Alpina have been very closely linked for a number of years, indeed the majority of Alpinas are now built on the BMW factory line with a small amount of finishing done at Buchloe. As far as I’m aware Alpina has been doing plenty of work and development for BMW for a number of years in its state of the art research and development centre so there are already plenty of ties binding the companies together. Historically there has been much discussion between the two companies about power and torque outputs and performance figures, with BMW M beating the Alpina in one regard while the Alpina might eclipse the M car in another, all in a carefully choreographed Top Trumps contest.

My hope is that Alpina and BMW will continue to coexist as more or less separate brands with their own closely linked, but still separate identities. It has been becoming harder and harder for Alpina to continue this thanks to the virtual elimination of the normally-aspirated engine where its traditional skill sets and techniques would previously have been able to shine. Where Alpina has more than made up for this is in its chassis prowess which really has been second to none in recent years, often putting the equivalent BMW product to shame.

While we’re unlikely to see any more of Alpina’s wilder creations such as the glorious B8, an E36 3 Series with a 4.6-litre V8 under its bonnet, anymore, I do hope that BMW will continue with machinery like the B5 Touring as it’s a model for which there’s no direct BMW competitor. Time will tell I guess, but I’m not going to be losing sleep over the possibility of Alpina-badged 2 Series Active Tourers and can only hope that BMW will keep the Alpina brand flying high for those who value something just a little bit different in our increasingly homogenised world.

James Elliott James Elliott 1 year ago #

I’ve been musing recently about what the future holds for smaller, shall we say more boutique car manufacturers in the face of everincreasing electrification. I’m thinking of brands like Atom, Caterham, Morgan and the like. What might their products look like, and will legislation create pockets within which they can thrive, or at a basic level even survive?

Most specifically I wondered what all this would mean for my favourite brand of all, Alpina. Before I managed to put pen to paper, or fingertip to keys, I read in the news that BMW had actually bought Alpina, or more specifically the branding rights (no shares were actually sold). I’ll be honest my heart sank, and despite trying to find positive angles about the ‘sale’ it’s not recovered since.

My childhood dream car, whilst on my early morning paper round, was an E36 B8 4.6 convertible. Most people would dream of an F40 or Diablo, but not me – that was where I set my sights. Sadly, that is a target I have missed ever since but at the tender age of 20 I did find an E28 B9 3.5, which turned out to be one of the UK press cars no less, advertised in the Dordogne region of France.

Like Bob, Elliott shares his thoughts about the future of Alpina.

Elliott morns the endof an era at Alpina...

Detail was completely lacking; the photographs were laughable but nevertheless I booked one-way flights for myself and my good friend, Justin, to get over there and try to get the car back home. The test drive consisted of our expat seller driving the car, fitted with two seats only as the rear seats were in the boot, down some French country lanes, ‘three up’ at over 100mph! The adrenalin was pumping. I was smitten, Justin in the back was very nearly sick. I paid. The car was mine. We had an eventful but never to be forgotten road trip back to Blighty full of incidents and funny moments and I’ve been hooked on the brand ever since. I adore the quietly spoken nature of the brand, the depth of engineering, the audacity to take what was once the ultimate driving machine and make it more focussed, and better. Of course, in more recent times BMW’s M division has taken the M product in an ever more extreme direction so Alpinas have become re-purposed for a slightly different market, but in so many respects they have emerged as better road cars for it.

This is a brand that means something, that is more than marketing bluster and Instagram likes, mainly because Alpina does not really market itself – it lets its products do the talking.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against larger corporate entities investing in smaller ones and giving them the financial firepower to do what they do best, and in some respects, you could argue that is, to some degree what the special relationship forged between BMW and Burkhard Bovensiepen over 50-years ago could be perceived to have been, but I don’t see BMW’s acquisition as that. This isn’t about giving Alpina the wherewithal to do what they do but even better.

Alpina will stop making cars at its Buchloe base in three short years and then what? Will Alpina just become another trim level for the mothership, or will BMW create a whole new range of vehicles under the Alpina brand? One thing is for sure though, BMW is a business that is all about chasing volume and Alpina has never been about that so we can expect a very different sort of Alpina to emerge.

It feels like a sad way to end Alpina’s story under the custodianship of the Bovensiepen family. The engineering knowledge and skills of the team at Buchloe were, still are, first class but I suspect those skills won’t be hanging around to become the plaything of a corporate behemoth. I could have seen a situation where Alpina was to BMW owners what Singer is to the well-heeled customer base of Porsche, an expert reengineering company for connoisseur clients. Re-positioned in this way there could have been a renewed purpose and a bright new future but instead who knows what will happen, but it’s definitely the end of an era, electrification has claimed a casualty that is dear to my heart.

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