Bloomberg Business has a fascinating glimpse into both the Megacity project and BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer. And one of the things that first strikes you is the level of dedication for the Megacity project from Mr. Reithofer. Here’s an excerpt:
“I would have decided to produce the Megacity Vehicle even if, contrary to our expectations, it doesn’t make money in the first generation,” says Reithofer, who hasn’t been afraid to break with traditions such as adding front-wheel drive models to the BMW brand, exiting Formula 1 auto racing, and linking with rival Mercedes to save purchasing costs. “As a leader, you can either be an entrepreneur or an administrator. I see myself as an entrepreneur.”
In a way that tells you everything you need to know about Mr. Reithofer. He is ruthlessly dedicated to the future of the industry and making sure BMW remains independent. And with 47% ownership by the Quandt family it’s allowed BMW to have a long view of things and not be as obsessed by quarterly earnings as its rivals. Again here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg:
There are many contestants, of course, in the race to build an electric car. Later this year, Nissan Motor will introduce the battery-powered Leaf, and General Motors will launch the electric Chevrolet Volt, which extends its range with a gas generator. More of a threat to BMW is Daimler, which has a broader development pipeline. A battery-powered A-Class compact will debut at the Paris Motor Show later this month, adding to fuel-cell buses on the streets of Hamburg, electric-powered Vito vans in Stuttgart, and a test fleet of 1,500 battery-powered Smarts in places such as Berlin, Paris, Rome, and London. The view from Munich is that the rivals are pedestrian.
“Since we’re BMW, we don’t want to create just any old electric car,” says design chief van Hooydonk. “We want to deliver what people so far think is impossible: the combination of joy and zero emissions.”
Though the Mini E is popular and seems to carry some component of joy, the electric version of the car is nothing special technically. The rushed project pushed out in 2008 is a simple conversion, which placed more than 5,000 laptop batteries where the back seat is supposed to be.
Perhaps the most daring part of Reithofer’s plan for the Megacity is that he expects to make money with the car, despite the use of costly materials like lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber. The company has set up a $100 million factory near Seattle, together with partner SGL Group, to make the carbon fiber for the car’s passenger safety cell. The use of carbon fiber is key to BMW’s strategy for the Megacity, which will be big enough for four people and be marketed under a new BMW subbrand. Because the material is 50 percent lighter than steel, the carbon fiber will reduce the size and cost of the battery needed to move the car. Until now the automotive use of carbon fiber has been limited to Formula 1 race cars and other high-performance autos, where price isn’t an issue. But BMW insists it can mass-market carbon fiber components, which will be glued together to form the safety cell. In addition, BMW is preparing a new test vehicle—the ActiveE, a converted 1 Series coupe—which will have lithium-ion battery packs developed by BMW and its partners Samsung SDI and Robert Bosch, as well as new electric motors.
Some of it is a recap of what we all know as BimmerFile readers but put into context it’s an incredible story that, if successful, will be told for generations to come.
Source: Bloomberg Business