Head of the BMW i sub-brand speaks about how the automaker is shifting its electrification strategy.
Christiaan Hetzner from Automotive News Europe had the opportunity to sit down with BMW i chief Robert Irlinger. The automaker has already made it clear that it will push forward with electrification ahead of rivals. In fact, it already has, as the BMW i3 has been available for years. In addition, outside of the i sub-brand, BMW offers several plug-in hybrids. While sales haven't been incredible, the automaker sells more electric vehicles than a majority of other rivals.
Hetzner wonders how many of BMW Group's 12 upcoming battery-electric vehicles will "wear the BMW badge." Irlinger isn't completely forthcoming, but says that of the five announced thus far, four are Bimmers and one is a Mini. The automaker has yet to announce the other seven models. He explains that BMW will work to meet the needs and wants of consumers with each of its new releases.
Irlinger says that BMW needs to provide electric cars in all segments in order to appeal to buyers. As the company plans its electrification efforts and readies the architecture, it's also securing rights to the names for these upcoming vehicles. Interestingly, however, he says that BMW has announced the five EVs, and doesn't have to make decisions about what happens after 2025. Hmm ... does this mean that there will now only be five by 2025 and the remainder won't come until after? It's not made very clear in the interview.
We all know that the i3 hasn't gained the success that some may have anticipated. Hetzner asks if there is a potential replacement in the works:
Hetzner: The i3 has struggled to live up to expectations. Will there be a replacement for the i3, or will it be repositioned as an i1 without the expensive, carbon fiber bodyshell?
Irlinger: I will let you speculate on that. What I can say, though, is that we had a learning process. We started with a range of 130 km to 160 km in everyday conditions . We thought that was enough since we positioned the car for urban mobility. But the customer had a mindset that more range would be better, so we decided it was necessary to bring a second battery update relatively quickly.
Based on the history of the i3, BMW has only provided two battery updates in five years. Irlinger reiterates that customers are looking for more range. However, in regards to battery updates, he says that if a vehicle like the iNext comes to market with enough range to suit customers' needs, there may not be reason to provide an update. However, if buyers still want more, then BMW will bring it to market.
Irlinger went on to say that significantly fewer buyers in Europe are opting for the i3 with the range extender, due to the larger battery. For this reason, BMW will be phasing out the REx option in certain areas. In contrast, it will still offer it in the U.S. and other markets where consumers continue to buy it due to a lack of charging infrastructure.
Finally, Hetzner inquires about how BMW will remain a leader in the electric car segment with the emergence of more competition from Audi, Jaguar, and Mercedes. Irlinger assures that he has no concerns for the coming year, but BMW could fall behind temporarily after that. He explains:
For 2019 I am not worried. Our competitors would have to build 40,000 next year, and I would be surprised if they did that, given the high price tags on those vehicles. It may be the case that the competitors overtake us the following year when they are at full production, but then we are coming with iX3 in 2020 as well as both the iNext and the i4 the year after that.
To read the full interview, follow the link below. Then, share your thoughts with us in the comment section.
Source: Automotive News