BMW addresses its future plans at Australian launch of the i8 Roadster
At last night's Australian unveiling of the new i8 Roadster, BMW celebrated its leading position in European plug-in car sales, and took the opportunity to fire a couple of understated shots at the direction the US government is taking, both on sustainability and global trade.
After drawing the covers off the gorgeous i8 Roadster in front of a group of Australian media and global BMW leadership assembled in Melbourne for a future strategy session, Vice President of Governmental Affairs Andreas Klugescheid spoke briefly about the brand's global outlook, taking time to quietly address the shifting sands on which global trade seems to be sitting.
"Yes, we are sticking to our engagement in the US," said Klugescheid. "But also to our engagement in Mexico. Yes, Brexit is out there, and we're highly engaged in Great Britain, not only as a production platform, but also as one of our major markets."
He also made it clear that BMW does not intend to join the United States in backing off from environmental commitments.
"It's a good time to mention that we do think the reduction of CO2 emissions is vital, not only for the industry but overall. So whatever you might hear from others, be assured that BMW has a clear commitment to the Paris accord, to the idea of CO2 reduction, and is willing to actually take responsibility here. It's not about the ultimate goal of CO2-free mobility, it's more about the how and when. It's not about the why."
BMW is addressing electrification in a sensible way as the revolution slowly begins. As well as fully electric models like the i3, it's put a lot of effort into plug-in hybrids, which allow owners to drive fuel- and emissions-free (and experience the unique performance of EVs) for the majority of their daily driving, but without having to worry about range on longer trips.
The i8 and its new convertible counterpart offer another angle to the bridging solution, combining the massive performance potential of electric with the emotionally engaging, roaring soundtrack of a combustion engine that drivers expect in a supersport car. When we drove the i8, we absolutely loved the way it combined these strengths.
BMW now has a fully electric or plug-in option in every car category it services, and the strategy has paid off, with the company taking a commanding lead in European sales of plug-in and fully electric cars. Its 21 percent market share dwarfs the efforts of Volkswagen in second place at 13 percent, third place Renault at 11 percent, Tesla at 10 percent and Mercedes at 9 percent.
While taking a clear lead into electrification, it's still unclear how BMW and other prestige manufacturers will survive and thrive in 20 years' time if the switch to autonomous vehicles and transport-as-a-service results in cities full of autonomous JohnnyCabs. But there's lots of talk of car sharing, subscription services and connected transport models in which customer/subscribers might be able to use a single card for multi-mode transport that includes public transport, electric bicycles and scooters, autonomous car trips and – when it's time to drive for pleasure – the ability to grab a beautiful sports car like the i8 Roadster and head for the hills. Time will tell.
For full coverage of the car itself, check out our LA Auto show launch report for the BMW i8 Roadster.