Leading with the brand
Thomas Becker, Vice President Governmental Affairs at BMW, gave the final presentation of the afternoon, showing how BMW was developing its range. With brands such as Rolls Royce, Mini and BMW, the company is focused on producing premium products for individual mobility. “We make things that nobody needs but everybody wants,” he joked.
BMW has two major streams of product development: evolution and revolution. The evolution stream involves improving the dynamics of its internal combustion-engined cars and the development of hybrid cars that have both petrol and electric power units. The revolution meanwhile, comes from electric vehicles.
BMW has three of these: the Mini E, developed in 2008, the BMW ActiveE unveiled in 2010 and, coming next year, the BMW i3. The production of these models in limited trials helps BMW test their capabilities against consumer behaviour and the needs of infrastructure.
It was found during testing that the driving distances most frequently travelled by the MiniE’s mostly city-based drivers were well within the range of an electric car. Dr Becker suggested that in future, hybrid technology will be needed for driving over greater distances.
Dr Becker showed how the BMW i3 was causing the company to rethink its processes, from concept design to the materials it uses. The car will feature, for example, a new carbon fibre material for its bodies, which is knitted rather than moulded and is 50% lighter than steel.
A detail-oriented presentation gave the impression that this is an integrated part of BMW’s strategy and has been for some time. However, Dr Becker was keen to point out that customer preferences must take a leading role in product development. “People buy our cars because first, they think it looks cool; second, it drives well; and third, ‘I look cool in it’. We need to deliver on that expectation.” he remarked.
After the presentation Dr Becker was asked by RSM’s Pursey Heugens, Professor of Organization Theory, Development and Change, how BMW had managed to achieve such a good reputation for CSR. Dr Becker replied it came from addressing a range of factors, the fact that BMW had started addressing CSR issues earlier than other car companies and “combining these with things that make business sense”.