BMW has filed trademark rights for 2 series based names; 228, 230 and 235 so naturally speculation has run rampant across the web. Car & Driver started all this speculation with their belief that the 2 Series would be a rear wheel drive powered coupe and convertible based on the newest 1 Series and we believe they are mostly correct.
BMW has warned us enthusiasts that a future generation 1 Series will be front wheel drive, thanks to the fact that most people in the EU who drive the 3 door and 5 door hatches don ‘t even realize that currently the rear wheels provide the propulsion. What BMW has not said is when this front wheel drive BMW will make its entry into the market. The current 1 Series is to begin being a replaced within the next year, beginning with the 5 door hatch (not for US consumers) and finally in 2013 with the replacement of the coupes and convertibles. With that being said, front wheel drive may be right around the corner.
The 2 Series rumor actually began back before the current 1 Series hit the US shores, in a period where BMW was said to be moving all coupes, and convertibles to even numbers in an attempt to align those models with the 6 Series. At that time the market research showed the 3 Series had too much cache to break up and the names stayed the same. This latest move is to separate products with different drive characteristics and to alleviate confusion across markets, as in the US we will more than likely (if our usually reliable sources are correct) not see this 1 Series at launch, but will see the 2er from the get-go (if the name sticks).
Where this all becomes confusing is with what happens in the US if/when the 2 Series comes to market- the 1 Series will at that time be vacated. Like the X1 BMW will not offer the front wheel drive models in the US at the world debut, we expect the 2 Series to come first in the US as it is a coupe and rear wheel drive and the 1 Series (hatches and a possible sedan) to be offered in or around 2015 just as CAFE requirements change and BMW strives to move more fuel efficient vehicles. With the launch of the front drive 1 Series BMW will in fact finally be offering an entry level vehicle to the US market, think of it as an answer to the A3 or VW GTI.
Worth noting is that BMW and other large companies often file trademarks that are never used (555 for example) but these filings indicate what they are considering and sometimes paint a broad picture of the future.