Analysis: why BMW decided to buy Alpina

Published: 28 March 2022

► BMW buys the Alpina brand
► What comes next for the BMW finishing school?
► It may end up being a win-win deal…

BMW Group has bought the Alpina brand, aiming to bring the long-standing tuning firm and its established branding in-house after more than 50 years of cooperative separation. That much we know already, after it was announced in mid-March 2022.

And it makes sense. After all, Mercedes bought AMG and revived Maybach and Audi bought Lamborghini. But how will it all work?

The need-to-know

The Alpina brand name has changed hands, and so will the specialist know-how in terms of engine and chassis development, and perhaps even the wood and leather shop which is claimed to be among the finest in the business.

The deal is still to be signed off under the usual financial checks, but the move to bring the Alpina brand inside the group comes as the ‘cooperation agreement’ between the two brands is to expire at the end of 2025. Alpina will carry on its business as it currently does until the end of that agreement, where Alpina models are pre-assembled on BMW production lines, then brought to workshops in Buchloe for finishing.

alpina b5 touring

BMW Group says that the service, parts and accessories side of the business ‘will continue at the Buchloe location in the long term’, adding that ‘there will be no changes to the existing aftersales cooperation.’

But the sale does ‘have implications’ for those working at Alpina; BMW says it will work with Alpina to ensure those who may be made redundant via the new structure can find a new position within the BMW Group or a supplier. Indeed, it is understood that BMW will hire 50 of the 280 Alpina workers directly and, according to Andreas Bovensiepen, co-MD of Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH, the company founded by his father will in the future concentrate on restoring and dealing with classic Alpinas.

So, why has BMW bought the brand?

Well, for a kick-off, Alpina’s doing well for itself. 2021 was the brand’s best-ever year, and almost the entire output scheduled for 2022 is already spoken for, too. That will have been an attractive proposition to BMW. But let’s face it: between now and the end of 2025, the niche capacity-restricted manufacturer from Buchloe near Munich can build no more than 5000 units.

alpina b8

The new arrangement may not be an instant licence to print money for either side, but it may evolve into win-win deal. Alpina should win because it cannot fund the transformation from combustion engine to electric out of its own pocket. BMW should win because there is a big gap between the highest-end 7- and 8-series and the no-longer-entry-level Rolls-Royce Ghost.

‘We recognised the challenges facing the automotive industry early on and are now setting the right course for Alpina and for our family firm, Bovensiepen,’ said Bovensiepen, in a statement regarding the announced deal; ‘this marks the beginning of a new chapter.’

It’s common knowledge that Rolls-Royce will go fully electric, starting in 2023 with the new Spectre. An electric Dawn will follow suit, and so will battery-powered replacements for Ghost, Phantom and Cullinan in the years to come. As for BMW, the rules are going to change because, starting in 2025, every new BMW model will be based on the brand-new next-generation Neue Klasse architecture.

alpina xb7

The Neue Klasse is electric first, but not yet electric only. It is, in other words, still capable to accommodate the six- and eight-cylinder engines that made Alpina famous – and this is where the family-run finishing school comes into the wider BMW Group strategy. It certainly helps in this context that BMW decided early in the game to prepare its powerplants for the upcoming EU7 emission norm. On its own, Alpina would have been hard pressed to finance this crucial upgrade, just as they could not afford their own unique EV componentry.

On the EV front, BMW is expected to generate a set of tweaked e-motors, inverters and batteries for its in-house Alpina branch. And, in contrast with the M Division, Alpina is seen as provider of luxury mobility as a service. Assets are to include faster priority charging, extended user benefits and tailormade on-demand software upgrades.

Read our Alpina reviews here

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel