BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer has revealed that the automaker is working on a new family of modular gasoline and diesel engines that will include a three-cylinder variant and eventually go into some 1.5 million cars, including both BMW and MINI models, per year.

The family of engines will include three- four- and six-cylinder units and are being developed primarily for BMW’s new front-wheel drive models, though they will also be offered in rear-wheel drive models as well.

Reithofer is keen to see volumes across BMW’s three brands increase dramatically--as he describes it: “a scale we never had at BMW before”.

Last year BMW sold a total of 1,286,310 vehicles across its three brands, of which small and compact cars accounting for about 400,000 vehicles. With the introduction of the new front-wheel drive model line, BMW hopes to add an additional 700,000 to one million vehicle sales per year starting in 2014 or 2015.

Company insiders have suggested that BMW’s new front-wheel drive platform could eventually spawn up to 20 different models. Reithofer confirmed that the first model to use it will be the next-generation MINI due in 2014 and that two front-wheel drive BMW models will follow shortly after.

Expect the new engines powering all these cars to feature direct injection and turbocharging technologies. There should also be a few hybrid applications and possibly even a range-extended plug-in hybrid design.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]