BMW CEO opens up about Tesla, electric cars, and 'keeping the combustion engine alive'
Like most of the legacy automakers, BMW has blown hot and cold on electrification. The company got into the game early—its i3 was a highly innovative vehicle when it was launched in 2013. Since then, however, BMW’s interest in EVs has waned—the once-cutting-edge i3 is now woefully dated, and plans for new electric models seem to be proceeding slowly.
Above: A look at the BMW i3 (Flickr: Jakob Harter)
CEO Oliver Zipse recently told Reuters that its next generation of EVs will reverse the automaker’s reputation as an electrification laggard. “There is a perception that we took a break, but we actually didn’t take a break,” Zipse said. “We waited for the moment when electromobility is really getting into higher volumes.”
Asked if BMW could become a "story stock" like electric automaker Tesla, Zipse said: "Of course we can."
BMW says it expects half of its sales to be fully electric models by 2030—a more conservative target than some of those announced by rivals such as Volkswagen.
Above: BMW CEO Oliver Zipse discusses CO2 targets in Europe (YouTube: ACEA)
The Bavarian brand has taken a different path from other automakers, building combustion engine, hybrid and electric models on shared platforms. In 2025, it plans to launch its New Class platform, which will support gas and diesel cars as well as EVs and PHEVs. Since the Roadster days, Tesla has always maintained that designing EVs “from the ground up” is the superior approach—and most other automakers are now following that policy as well.
“If you look at what’s happening in the market with these [dedicated electric] platforms, the cars all look alike,” Zipse said. “BMW serves very specific, high-paying customers. I think they don’t want cars who all look alike.”
Zipse made it pretty clear that he doesn’t want to see ICE vehicles disappear any time soon. He told Reuters that the European Union should not overreach on its Euro 7 emissions proposals, which are expected to be revealed later this year. Some in the German auto industry have speculated that the new regulations could effectively ban combustion engines from 2025.
“We should do it in a reasonable way to keep the combustion engine alive,” he said.