Alpina is a company that knows a thing or two about going fast. After all, it’s been modifying BMWs for speed since 1965. And it’s for that reason that Alpina CEO Andreas Bovensiepen has some serious concerns regarding the possibilities of mandated speed limiters and the demise of Germany’s derestricted autobahns.
As the chief of a performance automobile maker, Bovensiepen obviously has a vested interest in fending off speed limiters and keeping Germany’s autobahn open. Legislation that has been drafted but not approved by the European Union would call for cars to restrict fuel flow once the vehicle reaches a certain speed, which may be the posted speed limit. Without the ability to travel at more than 120 kph (75 mph), Bovensiepen predicts performance car sales would decrease for every “fast-car manufacturer.” He noted that there will always be buyers interested in fast cars.
But Bovensiepen's concerns go well beyond sales figures.
According to Bovensiepen, speed limiters, which are intended to reduce the number of car crashes, could actually make vehicles less safe. That’s because auto manufacturers could get away with using lower quality components.
“If there are speed limiters I think the majority of cars will get a much lower quality in suspension. The German manufactures will say ‘oh, why should we invest so much money in suspension if there’s hardly any difference if you can go no faster than 120 kmh,’” Bovensiepen told Australia’s Which Car in a Friday interview. As an example, Bovensiepen said automakers may not opt for a five-link rear suspension when a lesser setup will do at lower speeds.
The Alpina CEO said brakes could get smaller without the need to slow down from higher speeds, and he is also concerned about the impact speed limiters could have on tire technology. With no need to focus on high-speed traction, tire makers could shift to harder compounds that don’t provide as much grip, particularly on wet surfaces, and that could lead to more accidents, according to Bovensiepen.
Bovensiepen did say there is a scenario in which speed limiters do make sense, and that is when self-driving cars arrive. At that point, he said, speed limiters could make people safer.
Alpina doesn’t appear to be too concerned about the implementation of speed limiters or autobahn restrictions in the short-term. The company is currently developing a high-performance version of the latest BMW 3-Series that should have a top speed of 190 mph.