KUALA LUMPUR: Rising demand for electrified cars and BMW's focus on electro-mobility will not dilute the premium German automaker's "Sheer Driving Pleasure" motto.
"We would never sell something - regardless of whether it is electric or not, that does not feel and drive like a BMW," said Dr Alexander Kotouc, who is head of product management for BMW i.
Kotouc recently spoke to CarSifu about the BMW Group's leadership in electro-mobility, with over 100,000 electrified vehicles (battery electric cars and plug-in hybrids) delivered worldwide in 2017.
That success is set to be surpassed this year, with over 82,000 electrified units already delivered in the first eight months and thus, BMW is on track to achieve the mark of delivering 140,000 electrified vehicles in 2018.
In Malaysia, year-to-date, 56% of BMW and MINI cars delivered are electrified, indicating strong acceptance among local consumers for non-conventional drivetrains.
"For 100 years, BMW has stood for Sheer Driving Pleasure and we have always promised that as long as there is a BMW logo on the car, it will feel and drive like a BMW.
Every one who has driven the i3 (all-electric car) agreed that it still feels and drive like a BMW. So, Sheer Driving Pleasure can be electric as well," said Kotouc on the sidelines of the recent Conference of the Electric Power Supply Industry (CEPSI) 2018 held at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
BMW Malaysia was the official E-Mobility partner for CEPSI 2018.
Kotouc also explained the importance of autonomous driving technology for the Munich headquartered premium automaker.
The BMW Group had announced last year that it is aiming to launch in 2019 a fully electric MINI, ; in 2020, an electric version of the BMW X3 and in 2021 the BMW iNext, which will combine electro-mobility with autonomous driving and new interior connectivity options.
"People asked me - how can you not see autonomous driving as a threat to you? But we see this as a really big opportunity and chance for us to really redefine what Sheer Driving Pleasure stands for. We will always offer cars with a steering wheel; you will always have a choice to drive the car yourself. But there are always situations like a traffic jam - where there is no driving pleasure, so that is when you want to push the button and let the car completely take over the driving. Then, you can make use of the time - call your wife, watch a movie, do some work or online shopping. So, this is a re-transformation of driving pleasure. That will be what the BMW iNext can offer," said Kotouc.
He also pointed out that by 2025, the BMW Group will offer 25 fully electric and plug-in hybrid models worldwide.
"12 will be fully electric and 13 will be plug-in hybrids. We are really happy with the success we have seen so far. We started with the launch of the all-electric BMW i3 in 2013 and plug-in hybrid i8 in 2014. I always want to make clear that electro-mobility is a marathon, and not a sprint. By end-2019, we estimate we will have half a million BMW electrified vehicles on the road," said Kotouc.
Regarding the modest pace of growth for hybrid and electric cars in South East Asia, Kotouc said BMW would adapt to different market needs from 2020 onwards with a new vehicle architecture that can support three different drivetrains.
"On the same car, you can choose either a standard combustion engine, or a plug in hybrid or a battery electric vehicle. The challenge here is that in countries like Norway, there is very high demand for electrified vehicles. But in other markets, consumers want standard combustion engines. So what we need is an architecture that is able to provide different options when it comes to drive trains," he explained.
Kotouc is also encouraged by the growing sales of BMW and MINI plug-in hybrids in Malaysia.
"This is a significant sign that people are changing their behaviour. Market research shows that once people have tried something electrified, they never go back to a standard combustion engine. If you look at Norway 10 years ago, no one expected that it would the leading market for electric vehicles. Currently, we sell in Norway more electrified BMWs than standard BMWs. We had the right cars there, and customers, the government and infrastructure were ready. Change can really happen quickly."