BMW has made a lot of gains in electrification, but the competition is coming up too

With rival automakers continuing to push for the development of autonomous driving technology, BMW is ramping up its own efforts and it’s not limiting itself to just the main brand. Speaking with Bloomberg, BMW CEO Harald Krueger confirmed that the German automaker is preparing the first battery-powered model under the Mini brand with a target to get it out on the market by 2019.

Details about the model have yet to be disclosed, but Krueger said that it would be competitive in the critical aspects of the market, including range and price. The announcement doesn’t come as a surprise as the landscape of the industry continues to shift towards an electrified future. Mini’s rivals, including Opel and Renault, were actively present at the 2016 Paris Motor Show to tout their new electric models. Renault, in particular, presented an EV version of the Zoe that promised an NED cycle-certified range of 250 miles.

It’s not yet known if that number is going to be the new standard in the industry, but expect the Mini EV to have similar credentials on the back of advancements made by BMW in electrification. The German automaker has, after all, pushed for hybrid and EV developments earlier than most companies, having done so as early as the turn of the decade, culminating in the creation of the “i” subbrand and the release of the i3 hatchback in 2013 and the i8 sports coupe in 2014. Expect the upcoming Mini EV to benefit from BMW’s headstart in this field.

In related news, Krueger also announced that a battery-powered version of the X3 SUV is also in the pipeline, albeit with a later release date (2020) compared to the Mini EV. The same strategy is expected to be deployed for the SUV as the German automaker looks to bolster its lineup of electric vehicles ahead of the impending onslaught of EV models to hit the market from its competitors.

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BMW still has its work cut out for it

On paper, it looks like BMW has the leg up on its rivals in the development of electric vehicles. Krueger himself says that its rivals are still in “phase one” of their electric strategy while BMW is already entering “phase two,” which apparently is the stage that sets up electrification for its core models. The fact that BMW already has an EV X3 set for a 2020 debut also reinforces this “a-step-ahead-of-the-game” belief.

Here’s the thing, though. Are we really sure that BMW is that far ahead in developing EV vehicles compared to its rivals? Sure, it started earlier than most of them, but remember, even the company’s all-electric development slowed down in recent years amid concerns about practicality, range, and emissions standards. There’s also the development of autonomous driving technology that has taken up a lot of BMW’s time and resources, not to mention having to deal with the existing business model of churning out more new models every year.

Don’t get wrong; I like where BMW is headed in terms of electrification and the upcoming releases of the Mini EV and X3 EV validates all the gains the company has received since it started down this road. But I don’t think it’s also fair to say that its rivals are lagging significantly. If anything, this race is probably more wide open than we think and BMW is simply in the lead, trying to stave off the challenges that are popping up in its side mirrors.

Read our full review on the 2017 BMW X3 here.

Source: Bloomberg

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