To Counter Mercedes Push, Electric Mini, X3 to be Rolled out by BMW

As part of a broader push to make electric cars more mainstream and counter ambitious  plans from rivals, BMW AG will roll out the first battery-powered model of its urban Mini brand.

Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger said on Friday in an interview that a battery-powered version of the BMW X3 sport utility vehicle in 2020 would follow the new Mini set to hit the market in 2019. After bundling previous green-car offerings under the “i” subbrand, signals that the company views the technology as ready for the mainstream were given by fact that the variant of the popular X3 would push into the heart of BMW’s portfolio. Krueger said that both new electric models would have “competitive” driving ranges and prices.

After BMW introduced the $42,400 i3 city car in 2013 and the $140,700 i8 plug-in hybrid sports car in 2014, the new Mini and BMW vehicles broaden the company’s electric-car push. With automakers from General Motors Co.’s Opel to Renault SA trumpeting their latest electric-car offerings this week at the Paris Motor Show, rivals are now catching up. With the first due by the end of the decade, Volkswagen AG will introduce 30 electric cars, including Audi models, by 2025, Mercedes-Benz created the EQ nameplate for a series of battery-powered vehicles.

“Competitors are now in phase one on their electric strategy, while we’re entering phase two,” said Krueger. “We’re already well on our way to electrifying the core portfolio, using powertrain technology from BMW i.”

BMW introduced plug-in hybrid variants across the main product line after being the early developer of a stand-alone electric car with the i3. Krueger said that sales of plug-in hybrid and electric BMW cars would be nearly double last year’s figure and is on track to reach about 60,000 vehicles this year.

However amid concerns about driving range and costs BMW’s all-electric expansion stalled in recent years. Pressure to meet ever-tighter emissions standards is believed to in part responsible for the recent turnabout. Efficiency improvements from automakers that would be roughly double the gains made since 2010 is being sought by the European Union to reach 2021 targets. BMW is seeking to bolster its lineup of luxury cars to help pay for investment into self-driving technology and therefore that’s become a challenge.

Krueger, who stayed in Munich to deliberate strategy rather than attend the Paris exhibition said that plans to add more variants of BMW’s flagship 7-Series sedan are in the works and could include one or two more products in the lucrative segment.

Speaking following a supervisory board meeting on the company’s strategic path, the CEO said that the range and other specifications for the electric Mini and X3 haven’t been finalized yet. He said that flexibility is key to adapting to unprecedented changes in the auto industry and adding cars in additional segments is also in the cards depending on how demand develops.

As car-sharing becomes a viable alternative for many consumers and self-driving features emerge, manufacturers Bottom of Form

are facing disruption to their traditional business model of building and selling vehicles. And while Apple Inc. has been exploring options in the auto industry, the changes have spawned new competitors like ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. BMW has responded with services under the Now brand, such as car-sharing service DriveNow.

“The BMW Group needs to continue the move in the direction of tech companies. The times when a strategy gets devised, agreed on and then takes 10 years to be executed are over. We have to continually adjust what we do and develop further all the time,” he said.

(Adapted from Bloomberg)

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