Before the holiday break I was lucky enough to spend some seat time behind the wheel of a BMW Performance 335i sedan with Eric Riehle. Eric is the new Accessory Development Manager for BMW Performance and Motorsport. In other words, he is every enthusiast’s best friend as he helps create and bring to market the accessories we all would like.
So without further delay here is our exclusive interview with Eric.
BimmerFile- Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Eric Riehle- I have worked for BMW for 10 years. I began as a Master Technician, and worked my way up to Field Service Engineer, Product Engineer, Quality Manager and before this position I was the Workshop / Warranty Manager at the Port Jersey Vehicle Distribution Center.
BF- Sounds like you have some great knowledge of what makes BMWs tick. Do you have any racing or experience with modding cars?
ER- Much of my life I have been racing things, from a 3-wheeler (trike) in my youth, to attending High Performance Driving schools in my modified E36 ///M3. I plan on obtaining my competition-racing license and competing as soon as I can. I have been making adjustments and modifications to my car to get it to where I want it to be before competing in it.
BF- We have covered BMW Performance for the past year and from the beginning we were concerned about the pricing of it compared to the competition. While the accessories are great they are just not priced competitively. Are there plans to lower pricing?
ER- We recently announced price adjustments to the BMW Performance product line. I will provide you with the necessary information to pass on to your readers (covered here). The new pricing structure is a better fit for the current economic environment. These parts originate in Germany and are subject to currency fluctuations and market competition.
We feel that we make a product that is better than original equipment so it deserves a premium. It is not a value priced line as these components are extensively engineered and tested to preserve the longevity and the overall experience of owning a BMW.
BF- That is great news! That will allow some people that were on the fence because of pricing to get on board and experience some of the products. I now have to ask, Why was the Performance Engine Kit delayed ?
ER- While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I wanted the kit to hit the streets as quickly as possible, it’s important to build maximum anticipation for a new product. Keep in mind this was BMW’s first US experience certifying an accessory tuning kit to be 50-state legal, and we wanted to get it right on the first try. The Power Kit program was launched in three phases: 1) port installed dealer demo cars, 2) port installed customer kits on new purchases, and 3) the final phase being the dealer installed Power Kits which recently commenced.
BF- Now that the program is up and running, how have sales been?
ER- I do not have the numbers in front of me at the moment but there have been about 270 kits installed at the port in the last 3 months. This is a good showing and confirms what I said earlier about building excitement for a new product.
BF- A lot of our readers have noted that the torque numbers on the 6 speed manual version of the engine kit is a bit of a disappointment.Why the difference in output when compared the to the automatic?
ER- The torque increase is noticeable, and an improvement over stock in both versions but the reason for the difference in output is due to certain transmission and clutch components having a peak operating range for durability and longevity. We prefer to stay in that range for obvious reasons.
The kit requires the factory remote oil cooler (SA 840 option), which comes with sports package or manual transmission cars. Additional cooling in the form of a higher output fan and an additional radiator are installed to ensure engine longevity and reliability.
BF- So, the reason for the decreased output is not that BMW did not want the BMW Performance cars to compete with ///M too closely (as some have speculated)?
ER- By no means is that even remotely close to the reason.
BF- With the introduction of the N55 inline-six cylinder twin-scroll turbo coming to market this spring, will we see an engine kit for it and what does this mean for the N54?
ER- We are developing a Power Kit for the N55 (and exploring one for the N63) but that does not mean that the N54 is going to be leaving the market this Spring.
BF- Are there plans for a diesel Performance Engine kit?
ER- Not for the US at this time.
BF- What can we expect to see from BMW Performance in the next year?
ER- We are looking into expanding the lineup of components to other model lines. The Z4, X6, 3 Series coupe and M3 are being explored.
BF- ///M3? Speaking of the ///M3, What ever happened the BMWNA offering the GT4?
ER- BMW Performance currently does not offer many components for the E9X M3 and with the recent launch of a product in the rest of the world we may be able to offer some of those components in addition to our accessory line. I can’t really go into details at this time except to say that we are pursuing avenues to offer M3 owner’s more equipment for tracking their cars.
As for the GT4, it is a continuing work in progress. BMW Motorsport is working on homologating the car for the US (which is no easy feat) and it has hit some speed bumps in the road but has not given up.
BF- We field a lot of questions about the availability of an LSD for the 1 and 3 series. Is this something that BMW Performance will offer?
We currently offer an LSD as part of the E46 full product line. We have looked into offering an LSD for the E9X chassis but have not created one due to the overall lack of demand. We can build almost anything as long as demand is there and there is a business case for it. Edit- There was some confusion as to if the E46 differential was in fact limited slip, it is not but has different gearing.
ER- We recently introduced a new BMW Performance steering wheel. It is covered in Alcantara, has a flat bottom and features a BMW Performance Yellow stripe as well as the exclusive white stitching. It is a thick wheel that is ideal for track days and daily driving. It does not have the electronics (lap timer, shift lights, etc.) of our other wheel but it is great in its own right and priced in the $600- $700 range.
We have also recently been able to offer the front air dam on the 3 Series Sedan/Touring which was unavailable for sometime. With this part of the aerodynamics kit the front fog lights must be removed and deactivated.
BF- The steering wheel sounds like it will be a hit for those looking to get something different (especially in Alcantara) and do not need or want all of the added features of the more expensive wheel. The reintroduction of the front aero kit is a good thing as well.
BF- One last question; I know that your predecessor was working with BMW Financial Services to have some of these parts be able to be residualized as part of a new car lease when installed prior to delivery. Is there any news on that front?
ER- I am happy to report that we were able to work with BMWFS to have some of the BMW Performance parts installed together as a group of similar components be residualized to some extent. We feel this is a step in the right direction for those that lease vehicles.
BF- Eric, I thank you for your time and all the information you have shared with us. I wish you the best in your new position and we hope to see more from BMW Performance in the future.
ER- It has been a pleasure talking with you. I believe Bimmerfile converses directly with the core audience of enthusiasts for which we designed and built the BMW Performance product line. We will be sure to keep everyone up to date with future product offerings, and I am always interested to see what products or qualities your readers feel will make BMW Performance more attractive going forward.