But perhaps the biggest marker of the day, when the cars were unveiled to global media, was how very British both brands are. How the Union Jack runs through their oiled metallic veins, how it is their USP in a global marketplace, awash with other luxury and cool car makers. What then, exactly, does a vote for Brexit mean for each brand?
We caught up with board members a week before the momentous vote. BMW Group came out early in favour of the UK remaining in Europe, but, if Britain votes to leave, would that really change anything, I wonder, given how important the country is to both brands? “You cannot change heritage,” Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the board of management at BMW Group, told me. “These are two British brands; it doesn't matter who owns them; they will stay British regardless of the vote.”
But what about the crucial manufacturing plants in the UK for both brands? Might those move overseas? “We just invested £2bn, so it doesn’t look like you can just throw this away,” he said. “The biggest challenge is uncertainty. If Britain votes out, no one can tell us what this means. It will take two or three years to negotiate what it means. We have no plan B, because we can’t find anyone who can tell us what it means if you vote to leave.”
Would the company run its plants at a loss, though, should Brexit happen, given the uncertainty over currency at that point? “I can’t see us running at a loss,” Schwarzenbauer says. “It could go in the other direction, actually. It would have to be a catastrophic effect on the pound to run at a loss.”