At the moment, BMW is losing some of the momentum it once had in the electric car segment. When the Bavarian brand first created the i Division, the world was shocked at its capabilities. When the BMW i8 first debuted, it blew everyone away with its combination of style, performance and efficiency. The BMW i3 followed and offered a carbon fiber electric car for the same price as a modestly-equipped 3 Series. In their infancy, both the BMW i3 and i8 were incredibly impressive.
However, in recent months, new competitors from Tesla and even Chevy have hindered some of the enthusiasm surrounding BMW’s i Division. And its low sales figures have caused BMW bosses to worry about the future of its now-famous electric division. So, instead of attending one of the largest auto shows in the world, the Paris Motor Show, many of the BMW bosses will be attending a company electric car strategy meeting, so as to figure out what lies ahead for BMW’s alternative fuel future.
According to sources inside BMW, the Bavarian brand is looking at a few options. One of them is to make another electric MINI. While the brand has been pretty adamant about not making such a car, one unnamed source close to BMW claims that it’s almost necessary. “The question is: what alternative is there,”.
There are those inside BMW who want an electric MINI by 2019, which is no easy task. It would take a multi-million dollar investment to create an electric MINI, as it would have to modify the existing UKL platform and invest in converting factories to make such cars. There were thoughts of modifying the BMW i3 platform to create an e-MINI, but that would cost so much, the electric MINI would cost more than the i3 itself.
BMW is also looking into making a fully-electric SUV, possible the upcoming BMW i5. This would compete directly with the Audi Q6 e-tron and the Tesla Model X. BMW could use this to help boost profits on electric cars, as it could charge quite a hefty premium for the EV SUV. However, for smaller cars, profitability becomes an issue.
For some time now, BMW has had the highest profit margins in the industry. Its shareholders have no plans on giving that up, so low-profit electric cars aren’t very popular among them. However, BMW might be looking to compensate for that by offering an ultra-luxurious new flagship, to sit atop the 7 Series, that the uber-rich would buy for a high price tag. This could help keep profitability high across the board.
What’s ironic is that the BMW bosses who are meeting about electric cars are the same ones holding the progress up. Electric cars aren’t profitable right now, due to heavy battery and development costs. However, if BMW wants to cement itself as a technological and electric giant, it’s going to have to eat some profit for a little while to do so. But these executives don’t plan on doing that any time soon, so now we’re in this predicament. It’s largely why the former head of the BMW i3 project, Carsten Breitfeld, left BMW for the Chinese company, Future Mobility Corporation.
“I worked in BMW i for some years and we did some new things,” he told Reuters in China. “After doing this first step BMW stepped back and waited for what would happen in the market.”
According to Breitfeld, the small nature of CFM allows for faster integration of new technology. When they want to work on a new project, they get about ten people in a meeting, discuss it and move forward. But not so with all of BMW’s execs. “The same thing in a big corporation takes half a year because it’s not 10 people you have to talk to, it’s 500 people.”
BMW knows it has an issue right now, but it’s a correctable issue. The Bavarians are still in the EV game and competing with brands like Tesla and Chevy. However, BMW needs to pick up the pace in order to keep itself atop of the segment. So hopefully its bosses spend their time in this meeting wisely and come up with some new solutions.