BMW late on Thursday made the surprise announcement that it is acquiring the rights to the Alpina trademark.

BMW said the deal will enable the Alpina name and business to survive the current regulatory challenges and technological change affecting the auto industry.

Alpina is still not widely known in the U.S., but for BMW diehards the brand is synonymous with performance, luxury and craftsmanship. Based in the German state of Bavaria, the same as BMW, Alpina was founded in 1965 as a tuner of BMW cars, making it older than BMW’s own M division which turns 50 this year.

The two companies have enjoyed a close relationship for decades, with BMW even directly selling Alpina models through its own dealerships in some markets, like the U.S., and that deal will continue in its existing form through 2025.

2021 BMW Alpina XB7

2021 BMW Alpina XB7

Beyond this date, Alpina, based in Buchloe, which lies just west of BMW's home in Munich, will focus on the service, parts and accessories business of Alpina vehicles. Alpina's vehicle development program will also be expanded.

Actually building Alpina cars will become the domain of BMW, with BMW planning to support existing Alpina plant workers transferring to BMW plants or the plants of suppliers in the coming years. Alpina's small size has meant the company has been limited in how many vehicles it can deliver in any given year. We're talking just a few thousand units per year.

“The automotive industry is in the midst of a far-reaching transformation towards sustainable mobility,” Pieter Nota, BMW's sales chief, said in a statement. “Acquiring the trademark rights will allow us to shape the long-term course of this brand steeped in tradition.”

Alpina's current offerings in the U.S. include the B7, XB7 and B8 Gran Coupe. An updated B8 Gran Coupe was just introduced, and an updated XB7 is just around the corner. A redesigned B7 should also arrive in the not too distant future.