Exclusive Interview: BMW Performance\’s Eric Riehle

Jan 8 • //M Performance, BF Feature, E71 X6, E81/82/E87 1 Series, E89 Z4 Roadster, E90 3 Series24 Comments

BMW Performance 335i with Performance Engine Kit

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.

Eric Riehle 's E36 ///M3

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?

ER- 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.

BF- Are there any new products that you are especially excited about?

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.

+BMWFS residual adders PDF+

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.

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  • Frances Moore

    While reading the interview I was impressed by Eric’s extensive technical knowledge and obvious enthusiasm for all things BMW. A true company man!

  • http://bimmerfile.com Michael

    Frances- Eric knows his stuff and is a die-hard much like us, which is a very exciting thing. He is tuned into what enthusiasts want but at the same time is willing to listen to suggestions.

  • Mark

    Step one should be doing a proper job of their website. There’s not even a picture of the inidividual accessories when you click on them. Have a look at this….

    http://accessories.bmwusa.com/ItemView.aspx?modelId=494&perf=true&categoryId=143&productCategoryId=&menuId=0&subItemId=0&productId=991

    They’re trying to sell you 3 different parts of an aero kit there but don’t think you’d enjoy seeing what each part looks like both individually by themselves and on the car. What’s worse is that they then make some vague statement about vehicles with the M package not needing the rear kit despite no mention of the M package adding any sort of rear parts on the BMW configurator or no mention of a rear part at all directly above where it says this on the aero kit page. I’m confused trying to explain the convoluted nonsense, it’s amateurish in the extreme and their sales will never be what they could be as long as they continue to market their products in a half arsed haphazard fashion.

    They need a dedicated site with detailed descriptions and multiple photos of every part both on and off the car and a detailed breakdown of what each part costs not some vague description about only needing some parts which aren’t even mentioned in the description of the kit and a price for the kit in its entirety. Please forward this to whoever you think might read and value it and even though it might not seem so it’s meant to be constructive as I’m a huge fan of the brand as a whole and the performance automobiles and accessories in particular.

  • http://bimmerfile.com Michael

    Mark- It is noted and just so you know we mentioned this as well, the website leaves much to be desired. We know exactly where you are coming from and we will definitely drive that point home with those that are in charge of that sort of thing!

    Thanks,

    -M

  • Drill

    Michael, Any word yet on 3 series pricing? In reference to the new steering wheel, I got to check it out in Frankfurt and have to say, I like it more than the JCW Wheel on my MINI (which is to say, A LOT!) And I’m a little disappointed that there won’t (in the foreseeable future) be a BMW LSD option.

    Great work, thanks!

  • chas58

    What is a residual adder? I’m not clear on what the PDF is telling me. Thanks.

  • http://bimmerfile.com Michael

    Drill- I am happy to say we will have some new 3 Series pricing next week for everyone!

    Chas58- Basically it means that some of the value of the parts will be added to the MSRP so in the end you are not footing the whole bill for those parts when you lease and turn them in when the lease is up.

  • adc

    Not enough demand for a LSD for the 1 and 3 series? I guess there was enough demand so that various aftermarket options have become available, why would BMW not want to tap into that market??

    Also, why aren’t the BMW Performance parts available preinstalled at the factory? That would lower the cost to buyers even more, and perhaps bring in more sales.

    (Yes similar things will be available on the “is” models, but not for the normally aspirated models and not in conjunction with a manual transmission).

  • http://www.catalinstavaru.com Catalin

    No demand for LSD ? e90post is full of people installing Quaife and Wavetrac differentials with a great deal of effort unwelding pinions in order to make this possible, etc. I for one would order a BMW Performance LSD the same day if it was offered…

    And they say there is no demand Come on…are they kidding ?

  • Chris Chao

    I agree about the lack of availability of LSDs on the non-M models. That is a big reason why I am not willing to buy one of them. I really wish BMW would offer LSD as a factory option on all their models. Even on MINIs, one can order an LSD on a Cooper S, not being forced to pony up for a JCW in order to get an LSD.

    However, I also really wish that BMW moves away from the electronic LSDs and goes back to mechanical LSDs only.

  • Babak

    Isn’t the LSD on the MCS an electronic one?

  • http://bimmerfile.com Michael

    I am sure that while we think there is a market for the LSD there is not one that makes it a business case. While I would love BMW to have them in all models they are not needed. 99% of the driver’s are fine without it and the new e-Diff is 95% of a true LSD anyway so .5% are left wanting a real diff and they buy an ///M or go aftermarket.

    Having an ///M diff in my own DD I can say that the vast majority of driver’s have no use for it at all and that it is NOISY (clunks/whine, etc.) even with a proper break in (it is even noted in the manual) which would make most people think that something is wrong all while lessening MPG (something BMW and every brand is battling)

    Chris Chao- You mention MINI offering the LSD, well they are not anymore as soon as the inventory runs out that is it because the take rate is less than 2%- it does not even pay for them to store the parts and that is from the factory!! So in the end MINI owner’s who I personally think are the most vocal about what they want and tout that they will buy things (Cheaper than BMW offerings BTW) because MINI’s are meant to be go-karts do not even buy the LSD!! If BMW needed any more evidence than that I am not sure. For the JCW they did not even offer it!

    I will be sure to ask next week what the sales are like for the E46 LSD that has been available for over 18 months now and let you all know.

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  • Chris Chao

    I agree that the vast majority of drivers would not have a use for an LSD. But I do think it is important to offer an LSD as an option, especially for a sporty brand like BMW. I was not advocating that BMW mandate all of their models have an LSD.

    If MINI was willing to offer it on the regular MCS, I think BMW owners should be given the same opportunity to check the same option box when configuring their build.

    If MINI is taking away the mechanical LSD as an option, I will be saddened. I’m surprised the take rate is less than 2%. From the cars that I see coming in for service, it feels more like around 10% to me. Regardless, I still think it should be offered as an option. Otherwise, we’ll probably no longer see any R56s participating in autocrosses.

    The e-diff is a poor substitute for a mechanical LSD. JCW buyers can’t even get a real diff anymore. Using such a device on the track will only add more heat to the brakes. So those buyers don’t have the option of buying an M (or a JCW in this case) and would have to go aftermarket. I’m not even sure how easy it would be to retrofit a mechanical diff and take away the e-diff without all sorts of warning lights coming on.

    The E46 LSD take rate may not be an accurate indicator, since people would have to incur an extra labor expense to have it installed. If it were offered as a factory option, I think more enthusiasts would check that box.

  • Henry

    Eric says there is a LSD available for E46? I don’t really see that at all. Can someone point me to the correct link?

    Serious, I don’t mind the extra noise since I do track my car a couple of times per year. It may even help winter driving when the snow falls…

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  • Cubanjj09

    I want an LSD option for my 335

  • http://www.bimmerfile.com/2010/01/08/exclusive-interview-bmw-performances-eric-riehle/ JimK

    I had the Performance Kit installed three weeks ago in my 2009 E90 xDrive LCI at the dealer. The car does not have the factory Oil Cooler. Furthermore, it is a 6 speed manual and the article above says the oil cooler comes with the 6 speed manual cars. It says the Oil Cooler is required but it was installed without it. What gives?

  • http://www.profoundcar.com Barry

    Great interview!

  • http://bimmerfile.com Michael

    Henry:

    E46 330i LSD

    EDIT- There was some confusion that this was an LSD…. It is NOT. Apologies all around. Order a ZHP rear diff for the E46 and you should be all set!

  • Henry

    Thanks for the link Michael. I thought it is just the diff from the 330i ZHP and it isn’t a LSD (just a diff with a shorter final drive ratio). Am I wrong then? I certainly want to get one if it is a LSD!

  • Jason P

    128 owner looking to get a 135. Several questions about the residual adder -

    1. Does the ‘aero kit’ for 135 require just the aero front and side skirts (as it already has the M rear)?
    2. For the ‘carbon interior’ it puts the Short Shift Kit and Shift knob as two separate line items, but i was under the impression the SSK included the shift knob. Does that mean you automatically get 2/7 items?
    3. I was unable to find non-illuminated doorsills… are those discontinued?
    4. The Short shift kit is included in the dynamics and interior ‘packages’ can it therefore be double-counted if you installed both?
    5. Looks like the 135 cannot be specced with the aluminum strut brace (only carbon) is this correct? is this because it already has the aluminum installed?

    Thank you.

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  • jason p

    posting again because i forgot to turn on email notification.

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