NEW YORK – BMW AG's first M sports/activity vehicle premiering at the New York International Automobile Show is the 27th M performance model from the German auto maker since 1974.

Cranking out a whopping 555 hp and 500 lb.-ft. (678 Nm) of torque, the new M's V-8 has twin scroll turbochargers that help it accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.5 seconds.

It's the first BMW M vehicle to have all-wheel drive and a turbocharged mill. The engine has a lag-eliminating cylinder-bank comprehensive manifold that enables it to generate high horsepower. Power is delivered to the wheels through BMW's xDrive AWD technology that permits throttle-steering.

The X6M will see limited quantities delivered to the market in the year’s third quarter. BMW declines to forecast sales, but M models traditionally account for only 1% of company sales. Prices have not been announced but are expected to be in the mid-$80,000s.

Jim O'Donnell, president of BMW of North America LLC, says his company has taken steps to withstand the current automotive slump, ending 2008 with about $11 billion in liquid assets that ensures continued financial strength.

In addition, the German parent has trimmed production for this year by 100,000 units to keep inventories manageable and stable. It also has cut 7,500 jobs worldwide.

O'Donnell says sales conditions in the industry continue to be volatile and therefore declines to make any sales forecasts. However, he says the auto maker plans to have a 50% new portfolio by the end of next year, which should be just in time for an expected market recovery.

Meanwhile, BMWNA is focusing on keeping its dealer network strong and also increasing sales of pre-owned vehicles, which rose 16.4% last year. O’Donnell says BMW’s total used-vehicle business is up 18% so far this year, helping dealers stay solvent.

BMW dealers have invested $21.5 million in technical training and facilities improvements in the last three years and more than $2 billion in new facilities over the last seven years.

O’Donnell says the BMW brand commands strong customer loyalty, with 97% of vehicles serviced at franchised dealers, compared with the industry average of 50%, resulting in BMWs being better maintained.