BMW may be 100 years old, but it is get­ting fired up with the lat­est elec­tric dreams.



MA­JOR changes are on the way for the auto mo­bil­ity in­dus­try, as it goes through more shifts and trends in the next decade than were ex­pe­ri­enced in the past three. BMW is an in­ter­est­ing case study of a cen­tu­ry­old com­pany trans­form­ing it­self into a hi-tech com­pany.

Hilde­gard Wort­mann, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, BMW Group, says the brand’s ap­proach shows how a more than 100-yearold com­pany can trans­form into a new and ex­cit­ing en­tity. And its suc­cess at trans­for­ma­tion is a tes­ta­ment to the com­pany’s strong lead­er­ship and brand vi­sion, made real through a strong strat­egy.

“We came from a long legacy – the BMW brand is over 100 years old. Now we are trans­form­ing into a hitech com­pany, and the trans­for­ma­tion is re­ally ex­cit­ing. BMWi, launched in 2012, re­flected a strong vi­sion­ary view on what needed to be done, what needed to be ex­plored. It shows what the pre­mium brand should be – it is not just a prod­uct, but also about the lead­er­ship and strat­egy,” said Wort­mann.

The key strat­egy driv­ing BMW’s trans­for­ma­tion is to stay rel­e­vant, and that means to have a re­ally good un­der­stand­ing of where the mar­ket is go­ing and what most cus­tomers want, what is the trend and what needs to change, she says.

“Im­por­tantly, it needs to have the strong ca­pa­bil­ity to re­flect on your­self, your busi­ness, your prod­uct port­fo­lios and adapters. It takes a lot of con­scious de­ci­sions and courage, be­cause some­times you have to let go. And a heavy fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment, sev­eral bil­lion eu­ros ev­ery year spent in re­search and devel­op­ment into fu­ture tech­nolo­gies,” said Wort­mann.

Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion was the first re­cent ma­jor dis­rup­tion, said Wort­mann, and BMW has be­come a pi­o­neer in elec­tric mo­bil­ity.

For ex­am­ple, it launched the BMWi3 in 2012, and now has 200,000 cus­tomers driv­ing elec­tri­fied BMW’s – ei­ther all-elec­tric ve­hi­cles or plug-in-hy­brids.

“In Thai­land, our elec­tri­fi­ca­tion share is also about 20 per cent, and that is a very good share. By the year 2025, you will see 25 per cent driv­ing elec­tri­fied BMWs, so that is strong com­mit­ment to elec­tri­fi­ca­tion,” said Wort­mann.

“The whole of Asia Pa­cific is a fan­tas­tic re­gion for BMW, it is very promis­ing in terms of growth and busi­ness devel­op­ment. And when we look specif­i­cally at Thai­land, we have seen a fan­tas­tic growth rate here for us, an over 20 per cent in­crease from last year.

“I am con­fi­dent that my team will con­tinue this growth rate through­out the year.”

An­other area of tech­no­log­i­cal dis­rup­tion is au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, where the com­pany is de­vel­op­ing a va­ri­ety of tech­nolo­gies. There are many steps to get to to­tally au­ton­o­mous au­tos, Wort­mann added, but al­ready there are au­ton­o­mous func­tion­al­i­ties found in their cars.

“It is not yet com­pletely au­ton­o­mous, but a lot of driv­ing as­sis­tants sys­tems al­low you to take your hands off, your eyes off, and you can al­ready drive and park on au­ton­o­mous.

For driv­ing fully au­ton­o­mous – it will take a lit­tle more time. But it is not so much, be­cause the tech­nolo­gies can be de­vel­oped and our en­gi­neers are on top on this. But of course, you need a lot of frame­works to go with that, such as reg­u­la­tions and in­sur­ance,” said Wort­mann.

Ramp­ing up in­vest­ments

BMW has just opened a large cam­pus north of Mu­nich, with over 3,000 spe­cial­ists to de­velop au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, a heavy in­vest­ment in speed­ing up the fu­ture of mo­bil­ity.

The com­pany sees a fu­ture that in­cor­po­rates many new mo­bil­ity func­tions into au­tos.

“I do not be­lieve that the car will go away, I do not be­lieve that in­di­vid­ual mo­bil­ity would go away, but rather it will re­main im­por­tant. Peo­ple love to own their own cars, but they can choose now. They can drive their own car or use a rental car; they can use ride shar­ing – what­ever they want. It is just the pres­sure of more choices,” said Wort­mann.

For ex­am­ple, the BMW Drive Now, which has gone through test­ing, can al­ready boast a mil­lion cus­tomers world­wide. Mean­while, Charge Now, is the largest in­fra­struc­ture of its kind with 118,000 charg­ing sta­tions al­ready.

“We are con­tin­u­ing in our devel­op­ment work,” she said.

DriveNow is a flex­i­ble car-shar­ing ser­vice from the BMW Group, giv­ing cus­tomers the op­por­tu­nity to rent cars spon­ta­neously when and where they need them.

“Cur­rently, we have this ser­vice in 13 cities world­wide. We are look­ing into all the dif­fer­ent mar­kets world­wide to ex­plore fur­ther,” said Wort­mann. Suc­cess­ful cities must meet the com­pany’s cri­te­ria.

“When we looked to launch Drive Now in Mu­nich, one of the most im­por­tant things was to ne­go­ti­ate with the city’s gov­ern­ment for park­ing space.

“To give cus­tomers re­ally good ser­vice, we need for the whole city to have free park­ing avail­able. You need in­fra­struc­ture and park­ing and op­er­at­ing li­cences and so on. There are a lot of things to be con­sid­ered,” said Wort­mann.

She said she sees a big op­por­tu­nity for BMW in the Drive Now rideshar­ing ser­vice, be­cause it is the per­fect way to get new cus­tomers to try a cer­tain model. For ex­am­ple, some peo­ple might not have been think­ing about the BMWi3 at all, but be­cause they book a car-share, they get into a BMWi3. It be­comes like a test drive, in which peo­ple can try out a model, and that presents BMW with an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity.

“Customer can enjoy our brand and we can con­vince them to get into the brand. They might be young cus­tomers who might not have money yet to buy one, but they might go for some car later on. It is about the brand, that we re­ally want to show that we are up to date and un­der­stand what cus­tomers re­ally want to have.

Mo­bil­ity ser­vice is a customer de­mand for BMW, and we have to de­liver the ser­vices,” said Wort­mann.


A lot of the key fac­tors that BMW builds into their cars come from the larger high-tech­nol­ogy en­vi­ron­ment.

The carmaker co­op­er­ates with oth­ers, such as Mo­bi­eye, Del­phi and In­tel. It needs to part­ner with tech com­pa­nies in or­der pro­vide cus­tomers with a great in-car ex­pe­ri­ence, for ex­am­ple on the dis­plays, con­nec­tiv­ity and con­nected ser­vices in the car.

It also makes sure that it has all the hi-tech equip­ment in the car that cus­tomers ex­pect.

Part­ner­ship are also im­por­tant lo­cally, with BMW Group Thai­land hav­ing set its sights on an­other mile­stone in this coun­try’s jour­ney to­wards a fu­ture of elec­tro-mo­bil­ity. BMW is in­volved with a lo­cal high-volt­age bat­tery pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity, com­pris­ing the bat­tery mod­ules and the bat­tery it­self. Pro­duc­tion be­gins in 2019 at a new pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in WHA Chon­buri In­dus­trial Estate 2.

The com­pany has 30 plants in 14 coun­tries and has a strong com­mit­ment to pro­duc­tion in Asia re­gion, said Wort­mann.

“The ul­ti­mate goal is al­ways to keep max­i­mum ca­pa­bil­ity with flex­i­ble costs and labour force ca­pac­ity. We max­imise the pro­duc­tion net­work in or­der to make sure we can have flex­i­bil­ity, but also to op­ti­mise for the best tech ben­e­fits through in­cen­tives and op­por­tu­ni­ties. For ex­am­ple, we use our plant in Ray­ong to sup­port the China mar­ket.”

Chris­tian Wied­mann, pres­i­dent, BMW Group Thai­land, said that to­gether, BMW Group and Draxl­maier plan to in­vest over Bt400 mil­lion to es­tab­lish a new bea­con for e-mo­bil­ity in­no­va­tions in Thai­land and the re­gion.

“For BMW Group Thai­land, we have al­ready planned and been ap­proved for gov­ern­ment in­cen­tives by Thai­land’s Board of In­vest­ment (BoI) to fur­ther in­vest over Bt700 mil­lion for more BMW Plu­gin Hy­brid mod­els to come,” Wied­mann said.

Hilde­gard Wort­mann, se­nior vice pres­i­dent for Asia-Pa­cific at BMW Group, says the sto­ried brand is trans­form­ing it­self into a hi-tech com­pany.

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