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BMW’s U.S. Chief Confirms Local Launch Of Front-Wheel-Drive Models

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Despite reports to the contrary, BMW is expected to launch its new front-wheel-drive cars in the U.S.

The first of these front-wheel-drive cars will be a compact MPV that is likely to be labeled a 1-Series Gran Turismo.

The vehicle has been testing in prototype form for over a year and was previewed in late 2012 by the Concept Active Tourer concept.

When asked by Automotive News (subscription required) during a recent interview why BMW needed such models in the U.S., the automaker’s local chief, Ludwig Willisch, said there were customers searching for good looking cars with a little versatility.

He went on to explain that front-wheel-drive cars were better for interior space than the automaker’s conventional front-engined, rear-wheel-drive cars.

The new 1-Series GT, which will spawn both five- and seven-seater models, will share its platform with the third-generation MINI range and come with three-cylinder engines, though it’s not clear if models sold in the U.S. will feature engines this small. A plug-in hybrid version is also expected to be launched.

Willisch didn’t mention when the 1-Series GT will be available, though it’s previously been reported that the cars are due around 2014.

With its new front-wheel-drive models and family of i-badged electric cars on the way, it’s clear BMW’s focus has changed from one on performance-oriented driving to something more skewed towards lifestyle and environmental interests.

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