BMW Going All-In On Electric Mobility And Technological Advancements
German automaker’s i division to get a spate of new models, including the mysterious iNEXTby Kirby, on
BMW’s 100th anniversary is turning into more than just a celebration for the Bavarian automaker. It’s also become the setting for BMW’s look into the future of its business. That much was made emphatically clear when the German automaker opened the book on a new business strategy that will focus on electric vehicles, automated driving, and revolutionary software and technology services. BMW CEO Harald Kruger dubbed it Strategy One Next, a play off of former CEO Norbert Reithofer’s Strategy One plan that was unveiled back in 2007.
One of the most pertinent points of this strategy relates to the future of the company’s all-electric i division. With the success of the i3 and i8 models, BMW is doubling down on the division by announcing plans to launch an updated version of the i3 within the year. The new model will come with a more powerful battery and improved drivetrain technology to improve its battery capacity by more than 50 percent. Likewise, an open-top roadster version of the i8 has been penciled in for 2018, thereby confirming one of BMW’s worst kept secrets of the past few years. But the real highlight of BMW’s announcement surrounding its i division is its plan to develop a third model for the all-electric family. It’s not going to be an i5 or an i7 because BMW has come to call it iNEXT. Not a lot of details have been given surrounding iNEXT, but the company did say that it will come with an all-new electric powertrain to go with new lightweight materials, an autonomous driving mode, and improved Internet mobility. Don’t expect to see the iNEXT in the near future because BMW doesn’t plan to launch it for the next five years.
Until then, expect BMW to focus a lot of its attention on other aspects of its long-winding business strategy, one of which is a multi-track powertrain developmental approach. The goal is to develop a number of different powertrain options, all of which are geared towards the future of the industry. Lithium-ion batteries are already being used by the i3 and the i8, but BMW isn’t just stopping there. Lithium-air batteries are also on the table, as are high-density solid state technology and hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
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Why it matters
I’m not going to go so far as to say that these announcements is an open declaration for competition by BMW, but it does feel that way in some respects. What the German automaker did in essentially laying out its new business strategy is to make it clear that it plans on being ambitious and determined to see these projects through.
It’s not just about its plans for the i division or it’s plans for its product lineup; BMW is also prioritizing a number of other projects in the field of smart mobility. One of these projects is called “project i 2.0,” which will focus mainly on tackling the future of automated and fully networked driving. Part of the company’s plan with this project is to pioneer technologies like high-definition digital maps, sensor technology, cloud technology, and artificial intelligence, and apply them where these technologies fit.
All of these items are laid out as part of BMW’s overarching business objectives, one of which is tied into increased competition from tech giants like Google, Apple, and Uber, as well as rivals in the industry like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Tesla. The other objective, at least according to Kruger, is to continue striving to achieve its pretax profit margin of at least 10 percent from 2017 to 2020, which is where the German automaker is these days.
This is still a business and everything that BMW announced as part of its new brand and business strategy inevitably falls right back into its goal to move up in the pecking order of the auto industry. Whether it’s through digital connectivity, autonomous cars, or even developing its businesses outsides of cars – motorcycles and financial services – the goal remains the same for the German automaker. Be the first and be the best. Anything else is unacceptable.
Read our full review on the 2016 BMW Vision Next 100 Concept here.