Inside German Tuner Alpina

Wes Raynal
·2 mins read
Photo credit: BMW
Photo credit: BMW

From Autoweek

If Alpina didn’t exist, it would likely be impossible to invent it. The German tuner outfit started out building typewriters and diversified into parts for BMWs in the 1960s. Since then the relationship has grown closer, to the extent that – despite being a completely separate company – Alpina gets to see the larger company’s models years ahead of launch, and has official sanction to build cars aimed at niches that BMW doesn’t think are worth the time or effort to fill.

Alpina is tiny. BMW made 2.1 million cars globally last year, Alpina produced 1700 for all markets, a figure that company boss Andreas Bovensiepen reckons “makes us doubly as exclusive as Rolls-Royce – they made around 4000.” The company offers versions of most BMW models larger than the 3-Series, but the only one sold in the U.S. is the B7 sedan. That offering is soon to be doubled with the arrival of the XB7, a car Bovensiepen tells Autoweek has been designed with American buyers very much in mind, and will be finished at a special Alpina facility at BMW’s Spartanburg, S.C plant.

Photo credit: Tara Klein
Photo credit: Tara Klein

There might not seem to be an obvious space above the BMW X7 M50i, but Alpina clearly thinks the 612-hp XB7 will find an appreciative audience in the States despite its $142,295 pricetag. “North America will make up the majority of sales,” he told Autoweek at a recent German press event, “it will be more than two thirds of our production volume – so probably more than 400 XB7s annually.”

For most automakers, that number wouldn’t look attractively big, but for Alpina it means the XB7’s U.S. sales will make up between a fifth and a quarter of its total output. “We would like a get a little bigger,” Bovensiepen tells us, “but probably not go beyond 2000 cars a year.”

Nor should we expect it to lead to an influx of other Alpina products, with Bovensiepen admitting to us there remains little chance his company’s more affordable offerings will make it here, despite the widespread praise they enjoy in Europe.

“The problem is demand and money,” he tells us, “to cover the costs of getting them into the U.S. we would have to sell a significant number, and compared to rivals like AMG we have another company in the ladder, so we would struggle to sell them at a competitive price.”

Photo credit: Alpina
Photo credit: Alpina

Having experienced the new B3 – nearly as quick as the forthcoming next-gen M3, but much more luxurious – that is disappointing. But in a world where automakers usually prioritize growth and profit over long-term stability, Alpina’s steady approach is a sensible one.