- small but highly respected german tuner alpina has long built its own versions of bmws.
- now the firm is being absorbed into the bmw corporate universe after 57 years of an arm's-length partnership.
- development of new alpina versions of bmws will end at the company's headquarters in buchloe, germany, after 2025, but that doesn't mean the best isn't yet to come for the brand under bmw ownership.
alpina has long been a colorful exception to the size and scale of germany’s large automakers. the tuner was born from an unlikely diversification from office equipment into performance parts for bmw. the symbiotic relationship grew to the point that alpina was building its own versions of bmw models with the larger company's consent, even getting early access to future cars to allow it to plan its variants. in the united states, alpina has distributed models like the well-received xb7 through bmw, but in other countries the two companies were, nominally at least, in direct competition.
but that is all set to end, with news that bmw is going to take full control of alpina, bringing 57 years of partnership to an end and—it seems—ending the development and production of new variants in alpina's buchloe, germany, factory after 2025. two reasons seem to be behind this, the first being the growing challenge of meeting increasingly tough compliance hurdles. "the politically driven transformation to electric mobility as well as tightening worldwide regulatory demands—especially on vehicle emissions, software validation, and requirements on safeguarding driver assistant and supervisory systems—means the demands and risks for small-series manufacturers are increasing," alpina said in its official statement.
when we spoke to alpina ceo andeas bovensiepen at the european launch of the xb7 in 2020, he admitted that electrification was a huge challenge that the small company would struggle to overcome.
the second reason, paradoxically, is alpina’s growing success. despite the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, 2021 was the company's most successful year to date, with more than 2000 cars delivered globally. bmw clearly sees the potential to grow that number further and probably also to integrate alpina into its wider portfolio in a similar way to the company’s own m division. (while m's brief is pure performance, alpina has always combined speed with increased luxury.)
the official plan is for alpina to continue to build versions of existing (and future) bmw models in buchloe until 2025, at which point the brand will be fully absorbed into the corporate borg. at that point, we presume, development and production will be handled by bmw's facilities. the bovensiepen family will also create a new company bearing its name, which will continue to work with classic cars (we presume still bmws) but which will also offer engineering consultancy services to other automakers as well as bmw.
we hope there will be more interesting alpina-branded cars in the future, yet we also feel sadness at the passing of such an interesting, independent company, especially one that made such an art of automotive pinstriping.