BMW Reiterates Its Flexible Electric Car Strategy

MAR 13 2019 BY BRADLEY BERMAN 44

BMW will offer electric and plug-in hybrid versions of existing vehicles. Not dedicated EVs.

German luxury automakers are all optimistic and confident about EVs. But BMW is taking a decisively different direction from Audi and Mercedes when it introduces the company’s new vehicle platforms starting in 2021. Wieland Bruch, BMW’s communications manager for electromobility, clearly articulated the company’s forward-looking EV strategy to us from the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show last week.

“When we started with BMW i five years ago, we felt it was the time for fully electric cars,” Bruch told me. He explained that the BMW i3 was built on an EV-only platform and, at the time, the company expected to produce other Bimmers that would exist only as an electric vehicle.

“Then we started selling the BMW i3, BMW i8, and our plug-in hybrids in 74 markets around the world,” said Bruch. “Our big learning was that electric mobility is picking up speed very differently from market to market and that it will definitely be a longer transition from the combustion engine to completely electric mobility.”

We first reported news about BMW’s flexible approach at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Because the 70-plus BMW markets are at different stages of readiness for EVs, all new BMW platforms from 2021 will be built to accommodate a combustion engine, plug-in hybrid, or pure electric powertrain. “Other manufacturers now introducing electromobility will start with solitary electric platforms,” said Bruch. “But nobody has announced flexible platforms like BMW.”

Ten BMW-Group electrified models. Expect 25 by ’25.

Bruch acknowledged that Hyundai-Kia did something similar, but no other European luxury automaker has followed suit. He also explained that the upcoming BMW ix3 and iNext models are one-offs coming before the platform shift in 2021.

Three Numbers: 25/25/25

BMW will use a precise badging for future electric vehicles built on these flexible platforms. Fully electric versions get an “i” prefix. In other words, a pure battery-electric version of a 5-series would be dubbed as an i5. The plug-in hybrid version places an “e” after the model name, such as 530e.

The timing for when pure electric and plug-in hybrid versions are introduced is not yet determined. The electrified models will roll out over a seven- to eight-year product cycle beginning in 2021 – so by the end of the decade, the entire BMW portfolio will become available with all three different propulsion systems.

BMW 330e. If you see an “e” at the end, it’s a plug-in hybrid.

“We are massively behind electrification,” said Bruch. “But it’s not going to be all of a sudden that the switch gets turned and we all drive electrically. It’s a longer way.” He clarified that conventional hybrids are not included in this strategy. “A non-plug-in hybrid for us is not electrification,” he said. “Only a car that can cover a substantial distance fully electrically deserved to be called an electrified car.”

The driving range will depend on the model, but BMW is targeting – using the generous WLTP standard – as much as 100 kilometers (62 miles) for plug-in hybrids and 700 kilometers (435 miles) for pure EVs. That might very roughly translate to real-world ranges of 45 miles in a plug-in hybrid and 350 miles in an EV. Bigger vehicles will get bigger batteries with more range than smaller cars.

While the timing for the roll-out is not established, BMW has committed to introducing 25 electrified models by 2025. And by that time, the company says 25 percent of its global sales will be pure electric or plug-in hybrid. (Twelve of those 25 models will be pure EVs.)

Here’s the takeaway: BMW was earlier than its competitors to the market with a dedicated EV and platform. And according to Bruch, it learned hard lessons about how long it takes for consumers in some markets to overcome concerns about cost, range, and charging. That sent BMW back to the drawing board, resulting in its flexible approach. Meanwhile, other German luxury automakers are only now rolling out EVs. They believe that dedicated EV platforms are the only way to go.

Of course, a selection of 25 electric models in a BMW showroom is a big step forward. At the same time, 75 percent of BMW sales in 2025 is expected to be internal combustion. “It’s a glorious future for electric cars, but there is still quite a future for conventional cars,” said Bruch. “Nobody should think that there will be no combustion-engine vehicles anymore from BMW.”

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44 Comments on "BMW Reiterates Its Flexible Electric Car Strategy"

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And I and soon to be hundreds of thousands of other buyers reiterated my strategy to BMW and every other laggard, legacy LICE company when I bought a Tesla Model 3 instead of their weak-ass compliance EVs.

Yeah the i3 is expensive and very limited in it’s functional appeal.

…and dead soon.

They seem to have pulled off a hard trick. Raising prices while increasing sales. The Rex S for example is kinda pricey. This allows BMW to have increased the margin. And independent of pricing, the longer they keep it around the cheaper per copy the design and tooling become as it is spread over more copies. These factors combined don’t give any sign that i3 will go away any time soon.

In US the only reason they move them is good leases….and they have generous discounts for them. If BMW thinks they can move them at msrp they are delusional.

They also routinely offer $10,000 utility discount for showing your power bill. Combine that with tax incentives and you get a good proposition.

And increasing in sales every year.

74 markets is a whole lotta “compliance”.

Electrified! So ‘flexible’ in its meaning.

Much better then “Born Electric” !

It is, but at least they are consistent with their own nomenclature – an electric vehicle to them is one that has a plug, while old-school hybrids are just ICE vehicles with some electrical assistance. And within the vehicles with plugs, the “i” prefix denotes BEV, and the “e” suffix means PHEV. Makes sense to me. Very cool, and very German of them. 🙂

Sounds like their EVs will have to compromise if the platform is meant to also be used with an ICE. Meaning no frunk storage space, transmission tunnel, and less space for batteries. Tesla, and others who commit to fully electric vehicles, will continue to devour their market, with cheaper to manufacture vehicles with superior specs. The competition is getting ugly, or beautiful, depending on where you are standing.

While that’s true it gives Tesla a serious competitive edge.

BMW has a long history as an auto maker and cannot transform in to full electric over night. It’s realistically going to take time to offsets the huge costs, and the logistical financial burdens, due to the fabric of the entire car industry changing like it is.

Tesla is rapidly closing the size gap between themselves and BMW. In 2017, they were just 4% the size of BMW. The next year, they were 10% the size of BMW. This year, they’re talking about being 20% the size of BMW. We might see them reach 50% next year through a combination of BMW’s sales falling and Tesla’s continuing to rise. The excuse that BMW is bigger has always been lame and is getting lamer with every passing year.

BMW’s size should allow them to outsell Tesla in PEVs. That isn’t happening – Tesla more than doubles BMW, despite (or because) BMW has PHEVs. BMW can’t sell their PEVs because they suck.

I’m a huge BMW fan… But it’s TESLA that has better offerings, without a doubt.

BMW is clearly resisting the reality that is staring them right in the face.

Since BMW Group are doing record volume as #1 global premium, where are BMW’s “sales falling”? They have doubled their model range & sales volume already this century with forecast for another 50% increase, partly on BEV.

It’s a platform that can accommodate both, not an ICE platform that is retrofitted like in the Mini-E. That’s a difference. And we don’t know yet how deep the part sharing goes. It could be a platform that comprises much less parts than the usual 40%. As regards the space for batteries, well 435 miles WLTP seems enough for me. If it ends up being a regular 3 series with 300 miles usable range, I’d buy the sh** out of it. Let’s hope they can deliver. I’m kind of prepared to be dissapointed though

There is no transmission tunnel in CLAR based EVs. It is a flexible architecture where parts are exchanged based on needs of a particular car and drivetrain. If there is enough space in the front, then nothin in the architecture bars adding a trunk there. We are talking about the very fundamental chassis – the load carrying and crash protection structure along with body panels and attachment points for internal components. If something can work from 3/4 series all the way to X7 then you’d better believe it is very flexible indeed.

They needed to make the i8 much faster to be representative of an EV sports car so their perception of the market is a little off.

i8 is hybrid, 0-60≤4 secs. It made Motor Trend’s list of Top 10 Quickest Vehicles on debut years ago & sells for a fraction of the McLaren/Ferrari/Porsche hybrids.

Gonna be an inventory nightmare to support parts for so many different drivetrains & vehicles.

It’s already is.

I think you mean logistical. . Car factories do not really have a normal inventory. They have inventory on wheels.
For older models, sure there are logistical issues, but it is highly automated.
Take the Toyota factory in the UK for example – they use 2.2 million parts every single day. The supply chain must be solid.
Number of individual parts are not that many for most brands. They tend to share a lot of parts, which helps. A lot of the car parts are supplied by other companies, and the car manufacturer just runs the main logistics to supply parts world wide. That market is worth a lot of money.

Absolutely.

As opposed to the record 80+ million vehicles that sold in 2017? Which will be on the road for the next decade.

I don’t see how this compromised platform strategy is going to produce a car that can beat a pure BEV. Maybe a few BMW fans stay rather than leave for a Tesla but its definitely a sofa-bed approach.

What about the Kona/e-Niro?
To me, those two brilliant EVs show that a shared platform (if it is designed to support various drivetrains) can work very well!

Those are very different vehicles. The Kona/Niro are competent vehicles, but are in no way pushing the limits of vehicle dynamics. They are not trying to be much more than driving appliances. That’s fine for Hyundai and Kia, but not for BMW.

Amen! I applaud this strategy. It is the right strategy for a legacy auto maker to sell electric versions of the models we already know and love. I want an EV or PHEV of a 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series or 7 Series. NOT some totally new model like the i3 or i8. Just as I want an EV or PHEV of a Fit, Civic, Accord, HR-V, CR-V, Pilot or Odyssey. NOT some totally new model like the Insight or Clarity. Legacy auto makers take note. You might start or have started with some totally new models, but the real goal is to electrify the models we already know and love. And the interiors can/should be the standard interiors we already know and love too. Not everyone wants an overly minimalist or modernized interior like the Model 3. Now, executing on this strategy will be challenging. Have to deliver enough EV range and PHEV range. Based on the numbers in this article, looks like they will do that. And have to deliver enough models with enough availability. The flexible drivetrain platform approach is exactly the way to get there. So we need to see real results soon, but I… Read more »

Lol….you make it sound like only ice cars can have a decent design. If BMW wanted to make the i3 look hot they would have.

Not sure about the timing. Theyh should have rolled out this strategy already with the G models or at least starting with G20, probably one of the last CLAR G models. Now they seem to do a step back from an all electric platform to an unified platform starting with H models? And then to fit the next gen (I) would be only electric as already accidentaly (maybe) forseen with BMW I vehicles?

Didn’t Mr. Bruch ever learn that correlation does not equal causation? Or is he just towing the company line here?

If a company makes an *incredibly* compromised, oddball vehicle like the i3, that even people who drive one and enjoy (like me!) find weird looking, how can he then blame their lack of success on the powertrain? That makes absolutely no sense.

Regardless of their reasons for doing so, BMW refuses to make an uncompromised BEV. My last 3 cars were BMWs, but will probably place a Model 3 order this weekend. I’m not waiting until “sometime after 2021”, sorry!

Søren Bartels Rasmussen

The REx is a really good idea – is BMW not going to continue that? I am driving the i3 REx now, and it does a lot for making ‘range anxiety’ a distant thought, so while I somewhat agree with BMW that the transition to electric will take longer, but they should really focus on an otherwise fully electric future!

If the i3 and i8 are representative of BMW’s strategy for moving to evs, then, yes, it will take a lot longer for people to switch to evs, at least BMW’s.

Design a weird looking ev, make it super expensive and then when sales lag blame it on the people not wanting evs….i think i have seen this movie before.

Since when have BMW competed on price?!

BMW’s future promises and plans are almost as laughably elastic and infinitely stretchable/postponeable etc as VW’s.
Yet our media just can’t seem to stop obediently parroting them.
Hmm – electric Mini anyone ? To be produced in 2019 in Cowley, Oxford, UK. No really, honestly. Or possibly in China. Or maybe in a parallel universe.
BMW i4 ? Wot’s da latest ? Past caring. Yaaawn.
Paul G

Yes, why they’ve issued their 1st earnings warnings in years due to billion$ they’ve invested on factory expansions & R&D on new tech., electric, autonomous, ride share.

I’d give it less than 25% probablility that the 25/25/25 plan makes it intact to 2025. Maybe that’s the 25/25/25/25 plan for 1/25 to the fourth power chance of success. The way things are going BMW might barely survive with this plan. Their market share is dropping the longer they delay committing to a competitive BEV. The number of PHEV sold by BMW dropped YOY in February in addition to BMW overall sales dropping. BMW execs seem to be pretending to not have noticed this in reiterating this strategy.

Don’t spread FUD. BMW sales have been steadily increasing and their PHEV and EV sales have grown 40% in the last year. The drop in February is only there because the best selling PHEV (330e) is currently not being manufactured – they ended the manufacturing of the old model at the end of last year and then new one will only be rolling off the assembly lines in June. If you have a planned gap in model availability, then you’ll have a drop in sales, but that is no way indicative of any trends.

I’m keeping our 2014 BMW i3-REx as backup for the Standard Range Model 3, 220 mi range. The Prius Prime is being traded-in.

I think that the issue was that the i3 wasn’t game-changing enough to drive the markets to convert to EVs. Had they produced a car that was, then they’d have seen the markets change quicker. Tesla is now doing that for them.

I think that this should have been the approach initially and now they should be doing dedicated platforms. It’s a very strange decision that was somehow announced by the term “electrified vehicle” used for a while. I am just curios how this will play out because based on current conditions it does not make much sense. If we they would have had an 3 series electric version now when the new G20 is delivered would have been great, truly great. But to come up with such a plan now and to have results after 2021, not sure how it will play out. Probably it would reduce investments costs, but it’s likely they will also lose market big time.