BMW is sticking with its existing models in the transition to EVs. Unlike some competitors, BMW will offer existing models powered with electric, hybrid, or internal combustion engine. Competitor Mercedes is using an entirely new chassis for the electric version of its flagship S-class sedan.
The FT has more.
The two identical BMW saloons driven slowly on to a stage in Munich last week were met with confusion from the assembled crowd. Until an executive at the launch event pointed to them individually, it was unclear which car was electric, and which carried a traditional petrol engine.
That is very much by design. Unlike domestic rival Mercedes, which chose a bespoke chassis for the battery-powered version of its flagship S-Class, German carmaker BMW is bucking the industry trend by merely offering different innards — electric, hybrid, or combustion engine — for one of its most popular models, in the hope that elite clients hardly notice the electric transition.
“Customers tend to prefer established concepts,” said chief executive Oliver Zipse. While many wealthy BMW owners “want to drive electric”, he added, “their willingness to accept compromises is very low”.
Zipse stands out among German auto executives for his reluctance to name a date for the phase out of the combustion engine, and for a cautious approach to the rollout of electric models. Unlike Mercedes, which has pledged to be all-electric by 2030 “where market conditions allow”, executives at BMW believe combustion engine models will still make up half of all sales by the end of the decade, ever stricter EU emissions rules notwithstanding. “There is no regulator who has officially passed a law that in eight years’ time, meaning in 2030, you’re not allowed to sell other [combustion engine cars],” Zipse said. “There are announcements, there’s political will,” he added, but “we are a scientifically-led company — we want to understand before we decide.”
While it waits to see how the electric market will develop, and whether sufficient charging infrastructure will be put in place to make emissions-free cars attractive to average consumers, BMW will produce electric, hybrid and combustion engine cars on the same assembly lines, by the same staff. The strategy, Zipse said, would ensure not a single job worldwide was lost during the transition.