Friday, May 17, 2013

BMW CEO Reithofer Shows Strong Support For Electric Vehicles

Dr. Norbert Reithofer, CEO of BMW AG stands beside the concept i3

It's common today for people to question the legitimacy of the commitment major OEM's have today in regards to their electric vehicle programs. Most are in one way or the other developing or have already brought to market a car that plugs in. Some are pure EV's like the Nissan LEAF and others are plug in hybrids like the Chevy Volt.

While both Nissan and Chevy are clearly committed to plug in vehicles by offering volume production cars and will make as many as they can sell, some other manufacturers haven't been so supportive of them. These manufacturers have begrudgingly made a few thousand copies with the sole purpose of complying with the California Air Resource Boards mandate which requires the top six auto manufacturers to lease or sell a minimal amount of zero emission cars. These low volume "compliance cars" generally get very little support from the manufacturer and even less support from the dealerships, many of which don't even stock them in regular inventory.

Over the past couple years many people and even a few journalists have commented on blogs and EV websites that they believe BMW is also just developing the i3 for CARB compliance and they have questioned BMW's commitment to plug in vehicles. Being in the MINI-E and now ActiveE programs and having the opportunity to talk to program managers and engineers working in the electric vehicle team I have never doubted that BMW was serious about electric vehicles but I understand why others may. Many people wanted an electric BMW they could buy and the trial lease programs of the MINI-E and ActiveE didn't offer that. However their wait will soon be over as the i3 will be available for sale before the end of the year. It will be a full scale production car, available all over the world and BMW will make as many of them as there is demand for. It's not a limited run compliance car and BMW is going to do what they can to support their dealership network and assist them in selling them.

Even though everything I've seen points to BMW taking electric vehicles very seriously, it's still great to see the CEO comes out as supportive of their plug in vehicle program as Dr. Reithofer did this week at BMW's Annual General Meeting. Other than Nissan's Carlos Ghosn, I haven't seen a CEO of any other major automobile company come out as strongly in support of their companies venture into making electric vehicles. He even calls for Germans to get over their "angst" with electric cars. Well done Dr. Reithofer!

The following is an excerpt from the Statement by Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, 93rd Annual General Meeting of BMW AG in Munich on 14th May 2013:

"But  2013 is also about revolution for us, as we launch series production of our electric vehicles.

At last year’s Annual General Meeting, we showed you the BMW i8 concept car: a plug-in hybrid; a genuine sports car with the fuel consumption of a small car. Today, you can view the pure-electric BMW i3 concept car. We believe in electro-mobility – and are putting it on the road. Germany is respected and admired the world over for its engineering expertise and powers of innovation. But “German Angst” is also a concept the rest of the world is familiar with. “German Angst” refers to how, when it comes to making radical changes, we in this country like to engage in long and fearful discussions: because we Germans tend to see more problems than opportunities. And it is no different with electro-mobility.

Being the spearhead of change means taking a calculated risk.
There is no guarantee of success – not even on the road to sustainable mobility.
Progress has to be imagined, earned and paid for.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The future belongs to those who dare to take bold actions. We cannot ignore the need for new approaches – especially when circumstances are changing. Because the market certainly punishes latecomers.

Shaping change also means overcoming resistance.

As Machiavelli wrote, 500 years ago: “…the innovator has for enemies all those who derived advantages from the old order of things, whilst those who expect to be benefited by the new institutions will be but lukewarm defenders”.

Or, quite simply: The innovator stands alone.

Customers are waiting for attractive options – options which we can deliver.
We will succeed in this. And I can give you seven reasons why:


Our BMW i models have strong emotional appeal. Customers will buy an electric car if it appeals to them just as much as a conventional vehicle. I myself have test-driven both the BMW i3 and i8 several times. I can assure you that these cars’ step-less acceleration to top speed guarantees real “sheer driving pleasure”. The i3 and the i8 fit the brand perfectly. They are genuine BMWs.

Reason number two:

We take a holistic approach to future mobility. More than that, in fact: As an engineer I can promise you that we are revolutionising automotive construction.

The vehicle architecture of the BMW i3 is unique: with a Life module and a Drive module.
  • The materials we use are unique: a passenger compartment built of carbon fiber and a Drive module made of aluminum.
  • The production processes are unique: High-tech adhesives are now used for procedures that used to require welding, bolting and soldering.
  • Our production times are unique: We use fewer parts, and modules are produced in parallel. As a result, production of the BMW i3 takes only half as long as that of a similar-sized vehicle from our regular portfolio.
 There are also benefits for our associates, whose work has been made easier.

  • Workstations are more ergonomic.
  • Assembly is quieter.
  • Production halls use natural light.

None of this has been done before.

The third reason:

We monitor customer needs around the globe. Drivers in Shanghai and California are not particularly interested in how we get from Flensburg to Garmisch. They have different everyday mobility issues.
And they need different solutions. Companies who focus only on the German market as a measure of the success of electro-mobility will fall short. After all, megacities are already limiting conventional individual transportation.

In Beijing and Shanghai, for example, number plates are awarded by lottery, with considerably more applicants than plates. But electric vehicles are exempt from the lottery process and the associated fee. These local, and even national, decisions will boost demand for electric vehicles and other drive trains.

Customers around the world have tested our electric MINI E and BMW ActiveE cars, clocking up more than 20 million kilometres. Their experience has shown that:

A range of 150 km is perfectly adequate for the vast majority of drivers. Also, with a range extender, that distance can be increased to up to 300 km.
  • Worldwide, the average distance driven daily is no more than 64 km. Most cars are not actually in use for more than 22 hours of the day – so the battery can easily be charged during that time.
Fourth reason:

Many customers have already told us they are interested in buying a BMW i3 – a car they have not yet seen as a series model, with a technology they are not familiar with. Customers trust in our expertise and powers of innovation. They trust that we can deliver “sheer driving pleasure” in our electric cars, too.

The fifth reason:

We have received a lot of encouraging feedback from media and analysts.

Even before 2013 had started, SPIEGEL magazine declared: “The BMW i3 is the car of the year.” Auto-BILD wrote – I quote: “This car is a revolution. The i3 does everything differently and many things better.” End of quote. Try it for yourselves, Ladies and Gentlemen: Google BMW i, and see which company people believe is capable of shaping the mobility of tomorrow.

The sixth reason:

Our mobility services are in step with the times.

Around 110,000 customers in Germany and the US are already using our DriveNow car sharing service – with more joining every day. Our ParkNow mobility service in San Francisco is also gaining momentum.  As well, more and more people are taking advantage of our practical apps such as “Park at my House” and “My City Way” for easier mobility in cities. In this way, we are also reaching out to younger target groups.

And the seventh reason why we will succeed:

When it comes to the future of mobility, BMW has very good instincts.
We lead the way.

  • We focus on sustainability. Others follow.
  • We focus on carbon fibre. Others follow.
  • We focus on three-cylinder engines in the premium segment. Others follow.
Boldness and a pioneering spirit have made the BMW Group what it is today: the world’s leading manufacturer of premium automobiles.

BMW i will not decide our future success alone. But the fact of the matter is:
We need both: evolution and revolution; continuing development and radical change.

In Leipzig, the pre-series BMW i3 models are already rolling off the production line.

In case anyone is still in any doubt – this is a clear signal that the i3 is definitely coming to market. And we will earn money with it, too."


  1. Bravo, Dr. Reithofer! He says all the right things, the things that truly make the i3 and i8 revolutionary. BMW is raising mass-market automotive technology and the driving experience to a whole new level. In other words, the i cars kick ass!

    1. I know CEO's always make bold statements during these annual events, but he really spent a lot of time not only talking about the cars, but how BMW is really changing their whole manufacturing process and how they understand leaders take the risks that others aren't willing to. I found this very encouraging which is why I dedicated a post to it.

  2. Yes this is very good to see how serious BMW is. I want the i3 more than ever in my carport now!

    1. Well then you'll need to order one when they are available anonymous! By the way, BMW is obviously not the only automaker that is putting their money where their mouth is. Actually they are only the latest. This is how I see the leaders in the plug-in movement:

      US: Tesla (honorable mention to GM)
      Asia: Nissan (Mitsubishi a distant second)
      Europe: BMW (with Renault a close second- this can be argued though since BMW is only beginning to sell EV's and Renault has been for a few years now)

  3. Hi Tom -
    I've just been watching all the new i3 videos that BMW has put up on YouTube, and saw the one you starred in on Driving Range. Very cool! (At this point I'm not so sure they didn't give you a test drive, but of course you would still deny it, even if it was true. : )

  4. OK GM l'a déjà fait depuis 2 ans ! mais reste à savoir à QUEL PRIX ! si x2 plus cher = AUCUN INTERET c'est aussi simple !les japonais et chinois vont le faire. Les français rêvent encore et sont font aider par les pétroliers, ils n'ont rien compris pour eux aucun intérêt. Si PSA hybride à AIR surement pour jouer du PIPO.

    1. Le i3 est différente, alors que GM a fait. Vous pouvez acheter la voiture suis tout électrique ou un un plug-in hybride comme la Volt est. Oui, il vous en coûtera un peu plus de la Volt, mais pas x2. BMW est une marque premium et ils commercialisent leurs voitures dans ce segment. Ici aux Etats-Unis est prévu que le i3 abotu coûter $ 45,000 qui n'est qu'à quelques milliers de plus qu'un Volt. Cette i3 est une voiture très unique avec la technologie de prochaine génération par rapport à la Volt.