BMW sets out its electric ambitions

A roadster version of BMW’s i8 hybrid will debut in 2018. — Picture by BMW via AFP
A roadster version of BMW’s i8 hybrid will debut in 2018. — Picture by BMW via AFP

MUNICH, March 21 — At BMW Group’s annual accounts press conference today, the company announced that 2016 was its biggest in its 100-year history for car sales and outlined its plans to expand its range to capitalise on the growing demand for e-mobility.

In total the group’s three automotive brands — BMW, Rolls-Royce and Mini — racked up 2,367,603 sales over the last financial year, enough to ensure it can still call itself the world’s leading premium carmaker.

“In its centenary year, the BMW Group proved once more that innovation and profitability go hand in hand,” said the company’s head of finance, Dr Nicolas Peter. “Deliveries, revenues and Group earnings all reached new all-time highs.”

BMW sales alone topped 2 million for the first time and this jump in sales is SUV-driven. One in three BMWs sold last year (644,992) was of the X- variety. There’s also surging demand for the new flagship 7-Series since its launch in 2016. Therefore, the company is combining these two trends in a new X7 luxury SUV — its biggest off-roader ever and one that will compete directly with the full-size Range Rover. “With the X7, we will continue to expand our portfolio and strengthen our presence in this segment,” said Peter.

The X7 will be the biggest new launch but it will be one of many coming in the next 24 months. “We intend to launch more than 40 new and revised models of our three premium brands on the market during 2017 and 2018,” said Group chairman Harald Krüger.

Today, the company also confirmed that it will be extending its hybrid range and to reiterate its commitment to selling 100,000 hybrid or full electric cars over the next 12 months.

“In 2016, electrified vehicles accounted for around 2.6 per cent of our Group sales. But in certain EU countries, electrified cars already make up over 20 per cent,” said Krüger.

The first ever hybrid Mini, the Clubman, will be coming this summer to help stimulate interest in electrified models, and Krüger also confirmed that a drop-top version of its eco-friendly hybrid sportscar, the i8 roadster will be coming in early 2018. But form 2019 onwards, the company will be ramping up its investment in plug-in EV cars. “Demand for pure battery electric cars is also growing,” said Krüger. “With our Strategy, we have decided that: The fully electric drivetrain will be integrated into our core brands, with: an all-electric Mini in 2019, and an all-electric BMW X3 in 2020.”

Like VW and Mercedes, BMW believes that by 2025, electric cars could account for up to 25 per cent of total sales but only if infrastructure and regulations keep pace with technological breakthroughs. This uncertainty is also why BMW will continue to develop hybrids and other technologies at the same time. “We are also working on fuel cells. These are particularly well-suited to larger model series and long distances. We plan to produce a low volume series in 2021, and we will be able to offer vehicles with fuel cells from 2025,” continued Krüger. — AFP-Relaxnews

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