BMW plans future around electric mobility

Johannesburg – Germany-based vehicle manufacturer BMW is basing its future on technology and electric mobility.

Harald Kruger, the chairman of the board of management of BMW, said yesterday that the group clearly believed in e-mobility and in the last three years had sold about 30 000 BMW i cars, which was 66 percent more than in the previous year.

Read: BMW preparing for radical future

But Kruger stressed at the group’s centenary celebrations in Munich in Germany that the move towards e-mobility was “a marathon not a sprint”.

The BMW Group is celebrating its centenary under the motto of “the next 100 years”.

Kruger added that to support e-mobility, the technology needed the range of the car, the available infrastructure and financial invectives at the point of sale. He said this could be seen in countries such as Norway and the Netherlands, which had a much higher penetration of e-mobility than in other countries. “I believe the BMW Group has filled the topic with life consistently and we believe in that,” he said.

Adrian van Hooydonk, the head of BMW Group Design, said the concepts developed by the group were for all the markets in the world it served, including China. Van Hooydonk said Chinese customers did not want BMW to look at it differently to the way the group looked at other markets.

However, Kruger sidestepped a question on the relevance of e-mobility and the affordability of these vehicles in emerging markets, which were regarded as the future vehicle growth markets. He said China was an important market for BMW and it saw growth in this market.

It imported the BMW i3 to China and maintained that many Chinese cities believed in electric mobility for the future.

“China can be a large market for electric mobility. It was already the largest market for electric mobility last year,” he said.

Kruger stressed that BMW was working on all e-mobility themes and was number two or three in many markets.

Three qualities set the BMW Group apart from its competitors: the capacity to learn and to adapt technological innovation and a sense of responsibility towards society, he said.

Commenting on the possible threat to BMW Group from Google and Apple, Kruger said these were large multinational companies that the group co-operated with but were also competitors.

But Kruger said in the past competition had always helped BMW and the group had “always been able to launch something better for its customers”.

He said BMW had generated a futuristic scenario with a clear vision where premium mobility by the group would be completely effortless, comprehensively available and tailored to every customer’s needs.

“At the moment, the world is on the verge of realising automated driving. In the not too distant future, the majority of cars will probably be completely self-driving and travel the streets of cities inhabited by far more people than today.”

Van Hooydonk said it was difficult to look forward to the next 100 years and it was difficult to say if the car of the future would have a steering wheel.

But Van Hooydonk stressed that the BMW Group wanted to shape the future and “not wait for it to arrive”.

He said in the future the driver of a vehicle and technology would co-operate more through intelligent technology that supported the driver.

BMW’s plant in Rosslyn was the group’s first outside of Germany and R6 billion would be invested in South Africa by the group for the production of the new generation BMW X3 for the domestic and export markets when the current BMW 3-Series reached the end of its lifecycle.