Alpina has always been a colorful exception to Germany’s big manufacturers’ size and scale. The tuner was created as a result of an unusual transition from office equipment to BMW performance components. The symbiotic connection progressed to the point that Alpina was creating its own versions of BMW vehicles with BMW’s permission, and even had early access to future automobiles to design its modifications. In the United States, Alpina has worked with BMW to market models like the well-received XB7, but in other countries, the two businesses were in direct rivalry, at least on paper.
However, with the announcement that BMW would assume full ownership of Alpina, a 57-year association will come to an end, as will the development and manufacturing of new versions in Alpina’s Buchloe, Germany, facility after 2025. There seem to be two causes for this, the first being the rising difficulty of achieving ever stringent compliance requirements. “The politically-driven transition to electric mobility, as well as tightening global regulatory demands—particularly on vehicle emissions, software validation, and requirements for safeguarding driver assistant and supervisory systems—mean that the demands and risks for small-series manufacturers are increasing,” Alpina said in an official statement.
When we chatted with Alpina CEO Andeas Bovensiepen during the European premiere of the XB7 in 2020, he recognized that electrification was a significant problem for the little firm.
Surprisingly, the second reason is Alpina’s expanding success. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s consequences, 2021 was the company’s most successful year to yet, with over 2000 automobiles delivered worldwide. BMW certainly sees room to expand that number, and it’s likely that Alpina will be integrated into the company’s larger offering in a similar manner to the M division. (Alpina has always mixed speed with increasing luxury, while M’s brief is pure performance.)
According to the stated plan, Alpina will continue to produce current (and future) BMW vehicles in Buchloe until 2025, when the brand will be entirely integrated into the corporate Borg. BMW’s facilities will, we assume, handle research and manufacturing at that time. The Bovensiepen family will also establish a new firm in their name, which will continue to deal with old automobiles (presumably BMWs) while also providing technical consulting services to other manufacturers.
We hope that future Alpina-branded automobiles will be more intriguing, but we are saddened by the death of such an innovative, independent firm, particularly one that pioneered the art of automotive pinstriping.