BMW puts more meat on its EV strategy bones
The firm talks up the Neue Klasse, backs the UK for e-Minis
German OEM BMW seems finally to be getting a bit more excited about its future e-mobility strategy. At the IAA Mobility event in Munich, the firm outlined a 24-month rollout plan of six BEV models as part of its Neue Klasse range.
And it has now committed to making two e-Minis in the UK, ending speculation that the iconic British brand would not have a long-term EV future in its home country.
BMW’s Munich dialogue was much more BEV-positive than some of its communications. Its continuing advocacy of FCEVs and its tendency towards sympathy with a right-wing press and trade journal narrative that is pro-ICE and sees EVs as some sort of existential threat to the august German automaking industry can give the impression the Bavarian heavyweight is less than convinced about all-electric.
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“The Neue Klasse is not just one car; the Neue Klasse is a completely new generation of BMW models,” says CEO Oliver Zipse. “With the Neue Klasse, BMW will remain at the forefront of our industry, technologically, in design and in customer experience.” This sounds bit more like an OEM fully embracing a BEV future.
“The Neue Klasse is an idea and an experience,” Zipse continues. “But it defines the future of our company. We can and will build upon it to benefit the entire company.”
The six models arriving over the course of two years from, initially, its plant at Debrecen in Hungary in 2025, followed by cars made in Munich, in China and in Mexico, represent an “incredibly fast rollout,” says Zipse. “From SUV to sedan, there is something for every customer.”
And the firm is also touting some significant technological breakthroughs with its sixth-generation BMW e-drive platform that will underpin the Neue Klasse — 20pc+ improved energy density and 30pc increases in both charging speed and range.
The firm still has some cautionary statements about the BEV journey. But these sound more like reasonable concerns, rather than excuses not to get onboard with the electrification journey, when framed within an overall narrative of Neue Klasse enthusiasm.
“For a successful transformation to e-mobility, we also need strong comprehensive framework conditions,” says Joachim Post, member of BMW’s board of management for purchasing and supplier network. “First, a faster expansion of the charging infrastructure. Second, a reliable and competitive transformation of the energy industry and sufficient green power, a long-term perspective for securing critical raw materials as well as circular economy.
“Because tomorrow's raw materials are now today on the road,” Post continues. “It is clear, the transition to electromobility is a tremendous effort in which many players must work together. To achieve this, we also need consistent strategy at the political level.”
And political will seems to have been a significant driver in BMW’s decision to commit a £600mn ($748mn) investment into in its Mini factories in Oxford and Swindon in the UK. The German firm notes that “development has been supported by the UK Government”, which in turn boasts of “extensive government engagement and support”.
“Working in partnership with the car industry, we are securing high-quality jobs and investment and boosting economic growth. The total investment in the UK automotive sector is set to reach over £6bn in just the last two years,” says UK business minister Kemi Badenoch. “By backing our car manufacturing industry, we are securing thousands of jobs and growing our economy right across the country,” agrees her boss, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak.
“With this new investment, we will develop the Oxford plant for production of the new generation of electric Minis and set the path for purely electric car manufacturing in the future,” says Milan Nedeljkovic, BMW’s member of the management board of responsible for production.
The Oxford facility will build two new all-electric Mini models from 2026, the Mini Cooper 3-door and the compact crossover Mini Aceman. The factory will reach a production capacity of around 200,000 cars/yr in the medium term, with ICEs and BEVs initially being built on the same production line.
From 2030, Oxford Plant will produce all-electric Mini models exclusively, in line with an overall brand strategy to go fully electric by end of the decade.
Production of the new Cooper 3-door and Aceman BEVs will begin at BMW’s new manufacturing joint venture with Chinese OEM Great Wall Motor in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu Province, with exports beginning in early 2024.
The new Mini Countryman larger crossover model — to be initially offered with both pure electric drive and combustion engines — will begin at BMW’s Leipzig plant in the new few weeks.