Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the production, BMW Group
Andrea Rexer, Head of Companies and Markets, Handelsblatt

At the Handelsblatt Auto Summit 2018, BMW production chief Oliver Zipse presented his brand as a global operator.

In the USA, he said, BMW has been producing successfully for over 25 years and has its own value chain; In China, it recently became the first majority shareholder of a joint venture; in Europe, it’s the market leader for electric automobiles; and in Germany BMW was the poster child with outstanding profit margins and no diesel scandal. But given the diverse challenges the automotive industry faces, Zipse says the last thing BMW plans to do is rest on its laurels.

„In 1992, long before discussions on tariffs and trade restrictions, we headed for the United States. We believe that to succeed in a large economic area, you have to be present with your own production facilities.“ Doing that, Zipse said, made you an employer, a family provider, a political partner and more besides. He added that BMW was building a similar value adding structure in China – with growing success.

In domestic markets, Zipse said the focus was currently on the threat of driving bans. BMW had started thinking about scenarios like this as early as 2007, and had asked what kind of individual mobility cities would need. „Our response was the i3 concept, which has grown its market share every year for five years now.” He said BMW desired a tech-related discussion that aimed to keep city-dweller mobile. He rejected diesel retrofits as a ‘backward-looking measure’ and said driving bans were not the right answer for inner cities, saying his company was working towards fast fleet renewals instead.

Also, Zipse noted, „People already want to enjoy electromobility.“ In 2018, BMW and Mini sold about 140,000 pure EVs and plug-in hybrids. „We’re not starting a discussion, it’s already in full swing.” He said there was more to come: an electrified Mini in 2019, an iX3 in 2020 and the i4 in 2021. As a company, it was important to always have a realistic offering, enabled by a suitable cost structure. „In the next generation of electromobility, we have a vehicle component set that’s competitive in every respect, and can serve all architectures.“

Zipse said BMW would not be building its growing share of electrified models in dedicated factories because most production steps were the same as for conventional vehicles. And what about batteries? Where does BMW stand on producing cells in-house, or at least in Europe? „Powertrains are more than just the cell,” Zipse said. “They’re about power electronics, high-voltage storage, motors and more besides. And we do everything but the cells themselves.“ Cost-wise, he said, producing cells in-house would be irresponsible for a relatively small manufacturer. But thanks to its new battery research factory, BMW knew the technologies and features very well, and had developed comprehensive built-to-print capabilities. As part of a consortium, BMW was involved in Northvolt’s battery cell production in Norway. It had also signed a contract with market leader CATL for its next-generation cells. „The factory will be in Germany.“

Automotive Summit 2018 – Executive Summary

In early December 2018, over 600 automotive experts from all over the world – including manufacturers and suppliers, tech and energy companies, politicians and associations – attended the auto industry summit in Wolfsburg, Germany. From 3 – 5 December, the industry’s big hitters discussed strategies, concepts and technologies for tomorrow’s automobiles and the future course of their industry.

We’ve compiled the highlights from the Handelsblatt Auto Summit 2018 in an interactive follow-up report.