Last year BMW celebrated its centennial and besides fanciful concepts to show for it the Münchners marked the occasion with an important statistic — 100 years after getting started with airplane engines the company hit a mark of 100,000 electric BMWs on the roads. That’s nothing when you consider the Group (including Rolls-Royce and Mini) annually shifts 2.4 million cars, but CEO Harald Krüger is undeterred: “We continue to push ahead with electrifying our brands and models,” he said at BMW’s annual accounts press conference last month.
The target is ambitious, with BMW going for fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles accounting for up to a quarter of its production volume by the year 2025. That’s around the corner, just about one vehicle generation away, or shortly after BMW is due to launch the next-generation 5 Series for example. And you can peg that objective at roughly 600,000 cars.
Speaking of the new 5er, that car set off a coming onslaught of BMWs as the Bavarians plan to release 40 new models over the coming years in a bid to aggressively increase profits and sales by 2020.
“To help us achieve that,” continued Krüger, “we are launching some emotional new models… and expanding our offering with our BMW i and BMW M brands.”
In an increasingly digital and connected age, however, this car company will have to progress from mechanical means rooted in century-old technologies (internal combustion, chassis designs and production methods still used today date back to the turn of the 20th century) to something more of the moment, more millennial.
“Over the years ahead we will make the transformation to become a tech company,” said Krüger, who added that advances in autonomy particularly will drive the change.
“This year, we want to take a significant step forward: we’re going to sell 100,000 electrified cars…” Krüger said. “Looking further ahead, we’re also going to launch more all-electric cars: the Mini, X3, and in 2021, the iNext…”
The shift from steel to silicon, and the second age of the automobile, will commence with cars like the iNext, a Level 3 autonomous crossover previewed in terms of styling cues by the BMW Vision Next 100 concept first shown last year.
Going after mainstream buyers (hence the decision to make it a crossover), the iNext will rival cars such as Jaguar’s upcoming I-Pace with promises of near fully autonomous capability without any input from the driver.
With experience from BMW’s $200m carbon-fibre plant in the West Coast US state of Washington — the new 7 Series now has a composite ‘Carbon Core’ chassis for example, and the i3 and i8 use carbon fibre extensively — the iNext will benefit from lightweight technologies when it goes into production at the company’s Dingolfing plant in Germany.
Currently BMW manufactures hybrid saloons in Dingolfing, its largest European factory, and the iNext will be the plant’s first electric vehicle.
As for Krüger’s expansion plans signalling 40 new Bimmers on the way, you can look forward to stuff like a revived 8 Series, an i8 Roadster next year, an electric Mini the year after, and an electric BMW X3 crossover in 2020.
2 and 4 Series updated
In other news BMW updated the 4 Series and 2 Series range of coupés and convertibles, adding new paint and wheel design options as well as changing the front ends with new LEDs.
BMW’s already sold 400,000 4 Series cars since launching the nameplate in 2013, and for the facelifted range the M4 also gets chrome and electroplated detailing, more double-stitching inside, and the option of new forged 20in lightweight wheels the M department dubbed ‘666 M Style’.