Harald Krueger is tasked with overseeing a transition from diesels to electrified cars while establishing BMW as the most successful luxury vehicle brand. That includes getting back its “Ultimate Driving Machine” mojo. We talked to Krueger, BMW’s CEO and chairman of its Board of Management, at the Paris auto show, where the Bavarian automaker unveiled the next-generation 3 Series—engineered to be the sportiest car in the segment.
Will the 3 Series still anchor the brand with the growth of SUVs?
The 3 Series will always be the heart of the brand. The X3 is selling well, but there are still more 3 Series and 4 Series. The sporty sedan is selling well across the globe.
Does this 3 Series restore the dynamics of previous generations?
Yeah. It’s much more sporty. It’s much more emotional in terms of dynamics. The suspension can adjust easily. The range is incredible between a sporty, dynamic car and comfort. Driving Paris to Frankfurt, when the roads are bad, you can get out without any back pain. It’s a well-balanced car. It’s a level higher than the previous generation.
The new CLAR architecture enables a lot of this?
Yeah. The other thing is it brings our company to the next level of digital services. Intelligent Personal Assistant knows your music, your taste, your restaurant. There’s a personal connection between the car and you. This is a huge step forward. Not having a new generation of digital services could be an argument not to buy the car.
More versions are coming later?
It is too soon to talk about them, but the 3 Series is always the basis for an M version. We offer a long-wheelbase version in China.
How will the i4 coming in 2021 beat the competition?
It will be a fantastic design, very emotional. You have seen the show car. It will have up to 700 kilometers (435 miles) of electric range. It is much faster than some other cars from 0 to 60. It comes with the latest generation of connectivity, materials, and design.
Will you sell it in different ranges?
Yeah. There will be different options.
What range do your plug-in hybrids need to be competitive?
The new X5 has 70 km (43 miles) of range. It will be offered next year. And we will expand with every plug-in hybrid. The 3 Series plug-in hybrid is expanded from the X5. It will have two and a half or maybe three times the range of the previous generation.
How is your electric vehicle strategy unfolding?
By 2021 we will have five pure electric vehicles. We already have more than 10 plug-in hybrids, and by 2021 we will have more. By 2025 we will have 25 electrified vehicles; 12 of them are pure electric. We need it for the CO2 situation in Europe.
How do you manage the investment needed?
Our industry is about cooperation. BMW is investing as much as possible into development. This year we are spending 7 billion euros ($8 billion). That is double what we invested in the past. On hydrogen, we have a good cooperation with Toyota. On autonomous driving, we have partners like Continental and Delphi.
What is the criteria for choosing the partner?
Both partners need to bring their competences, technologies. Also the culture and spirit between management and the team must be right. The Z4 (and Toyota Supra) are out of a BMW-Toyota cooperation. These two cars are absolutely different but great, and we did it as a successful cooperation. BMW by itself maybe was not in a position to fund it. Now we have a strategic cooperation, and the Z4 is the outcome.
Impact of new NAFTA agreement?
I am pleased there is an agreement and NAFTA still exists. We need to look into the details because there are more demanding requirements of what needs to be sourced in NAFTA. Overall, America is still a very important market, and we will export cars from the United States to the world as well as Canada and Mexico. The X3 from Spartanburg will go to Canada and Mexico. We might export 3 Series from Mexico to the U.S.
How will Brexit affect BMW?
We moved forward our production shutdown in Oxford from August to April to be prepared for any stoppages. Secondly, if some cars do not qualify for a lot of free trade agreements from the U.K., we will move production. The home of Mini is Oxford, and that will not change. Mini’s biggest market is the U.K. so it’s an advantage to produce in that market.
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