BMW lost the US luxury sales crown to Tesla last year after three years of dominating the market, but the Bavarian automaker is determined to beat the US EV maker at its own game.
The company plans to add competitively specced battery-powered models to its lineup of sedans and crossovers over the next few years, increasing pressure on Tesla.
BMW of North America CEO, Sebastian Mackensen, told Automotive News in an interview that the company’s main priority in the near term is “the transition of our business to expand into battery-electric vehicles.”
Electric vehicles accounted for 5 percent of BMW’s US sales last year, and Mackensen is confident the BEV share will “more than double” this year and surpass the automaker’s overall sales growth in the US. “There’s still a healthy and robust demand for plug-in hybrids, but [BEVs] will drive demand long term,” he said.
While BMW is trying to get the right electric vehicles to the market, EV adoption is being held back by the charging infrastructure, Mackensen believes.
“Electric vehicles need to get charged. They cannot go to a fuel station and charge in three minutes. So we need charging infrastructure,” he said, adding that in order to drive market adoption to 50-plus percent, single-family homes cannot be the only charging solution. He urged governments, communities, and manufacturers to do more.
Mackensen acknowledged Tesla’s accomplishments, noting that the EV maker “has been at the forefront of this whole transition.” That said, BMW is focusing on its strengths and listening to feedback from customers “who can finally drive an electrified car that drives as a BMW does.”
He also noted that one of BMW’s main strengths in the US is the dealer network, which has a “huge capability in service” and taking care of the customer experience.
Despite the expected long-term shift toward battery power, Mackensen remains confident of near-term demand for combustion engines.
“We’re selling the Ultimate Driving Machine – that can be the ultimate combustion engine-driving machine, and it can be the ultimate electrified machine,” he said.
When asked how does BMW balance the profitable internal combustion engine business with the high-potential EV business, he said he’s more concerned with positioning the brand in such a way that customers have choices.
“We don’t have to tell every customer who walks into our stores and wants to buy a 3 Series 330i that they should change to an i4. We offer a variety,” he explained, noting that BMW is a global company that operates in markets with a 10 percent EV mandate for 2030 or 100 percent. As a result, the automaker is forced to have a diversified powertrain portfolio.