The first example of the Z1 was released by BMW to the press in 1986 and later officially presented at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show. Initial demand was so fierce that BMW had 5,000 orders before production began. However, demand dropped significantly around 1988 and BMW ended production in 1991. There is speculation that the drop in demand was due to the early inflated demand from speculative investors. In 1988, however, BMW was quoted as saying that they had 35,000 orders for the Z1.
The BMW Z1 was designed over a three-year period by an in-house division of BMW Forschung und Technik GmbH. The development of the Z1 is attributed to Dr. Ulrich Bez, not to forget the core of his team at BMW Technik GmbH (Alexander Pregl, Rudolf Müller, Lutz Janssen, Wolf-Henryk Menke, Dieter Schaffner, Klaus Faust, Sabine Zemelka and Stephan Stark). Control of the project was turned over to Dr. Klaus Faust when Bez left for Porsche in October, 1988.
The BMW Z1 was used to develop and debut several technologies. Z1 designer Harm Lagaay mentioned that Z1 production helped generate patents for BMW's high-intensity discharge lamp, integrated roll-bar, door mechanism, and underbody tray.
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