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BMW opens autonomous driving campus

The BMW Group today celebrated the official opening of its autonomous driving campus in Unterschleißheim, Munich.

Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Development and Research, and Bavarian state premier Markus Söder were present for the inauguration of a forward-looking development facility that showcases the BMW Group’s transformation into a tech company.

The BMW Group’s campus for autonomous driving is a state-of-the-art centre of excellence that covers every base when it comes to offering greater capacity for innovation and increased development efficiency.

15 months ago, the BMW Group took the decision to pool together its development expertise in the fields of vehicle connectivity and highly / fully automated driving at a single location.

 

The BMW Group is intending to drive forward development of highly automated vehicles with the new campus in Unterschleißheim, and is looking to recruit IT specialists and software developers in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analysis.

 

 

This is a time of disruptive change in the automotive industry, with the arrival of new players making the competitive environment ever more challenging. The pace of innovation is accelerating rapidly and young professionals cite future viability, a modern working environment and flexible, agile workflows as key to an employer’s attractiveness.

A cutting-edge development facility such as the new campus for autonomous driving therefore represents a crucial asset for the company’s long- term sustainability and innovative capability.

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BMW reveals subscription service

Ian Smith, CEO of BMW Group Financial Services USA and Region Americas

BMW’s new subscription pilot in the US will put drivers into the brand’s top performance cars for as much as $3,700 a month as the German automaker tests a new ownership model with its most exclusive customers. 

Access by BMW members will have the ability to request a vehicle based on their planned usage or activity via mobile app. Once a vehicle has been requested, a BMW concierge will personally deliver the vehicle most closely matching the member’s needs to their location at the desired time.  Vehicles arrive fully fuelled.  There is no limit to how often members can switch vehicles within a given month.  

“As customers continue to explore the growing mobility market, service-related offerings are becoming more in demand. With Access by BMW, our members will enjoy the freedom of personal mobility with access across a broad range of our highly emotional vehicles” said Ian Smith, CEO of BMW Group Financial Services USA and Region Americas.  

“Subscription-based services are of emerging interest for our customers, and we’re excited to be offering a mobility service to meet their individual and evolving needs.”

During the pilot phase, Access by BMW memberships will be offered in two tiers ranging from $2,000 – $3,700 per month, inclusive of vehicle maintenance, insurance and BMW Roadside Assistance.  Additional tiers allowing even greater access to a broader range of BMW vehicles will be added as the program expands. 

“A pilot program is a great opportunity for us to learn.  In the future, the nationwide network of BMW dealers will be integral to the success of Access by BMW,” said Smith. 

“We will depend heavily on their close collaboration to continue to meet and exceed consumer expectations, and to ensure the sustainable development of this new business model.”

 

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BMW to wait until 2020 for mass rollout of EVs

BMW Group Annual Accounts Press Conference at BMW Welt in Munich on 21 March 2018.

BMW CEO Harald Krueger said the automaker will hold back the mass rollout of electric cars until 2020 because current fourth-generation EV technology is not profitable enough for volume production.

“We wanted to wait for the fifth generation to be much more cost competitive,” Krueger said. “We do not want to scale up with the fourth possible generation.”

The cost advantage between BMW’s fourth- and fifth-generation EV technology amounts to a “two-digit number,” Krueger said. “If you want to win the race, you must be the most cost competitive in the segment, otherwise you cannot scale up the volume.”

BMW unveiled its first EV, the i3, in 2013, and has been working on different generations of battery, software and electric motor technology since then.

Earlier this week, we reported that BMW will bring 25 electrified models to market by 2025. Half of those models will be fully electric with an all-electric range of up to 700 km.

It also showed its i4 electric sedan, which will rival the Tesla Model S.

Separately, Krueger said BMW has chosen Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) as its partner in China for battery cell production.

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BMW confirms i4 electric car

BMW iVision Dynamics at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show

BMW will expand its i family of electrified cars with the i4 full-electric sedan, which is confirmed to arrive by 2020. 

The BMW i4 is just one of the 25 electrified models that the BMW Group intends to bring to market by 2025. Half of these models will be fully electric.

“By 2025, our global vehicle portfolio will include 25 fully- or part-electric models. At last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, we unveiled our take on the future of e‑mobility with the BMW iVision Dynamics. This vehicle will become reality: we will build it in Munich – as the BMW i4,” Krüger added.

Powered by the fifth generation of battery and drivetrain technology, the BMW Group will be capable of offering all-electric vehicles with a range of 550 – 700 kilometres and plug-in hybrids with an electrical range of up to 100 kilometres.

Today, the BMW Group already manufactures electrified vehicles at ten production facilities. In 2019, Plant Oxford will join this list with the start of production of the fully-electric MINI.

 

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BMW searched by Police

BMW’s corporate headquarters in Munich, Germany

BMW premises in Germany and Austria have been searched by German state prosectors, investigating defect devices capable of manipulating exhaust emissions.

Around 100 law enforcement officials searched the automaker’s Munich headquarters along with research facilities and a factory in Austria.

Prosecutors said they had opened an investigation last month against unknown persons for suspected fraud.

“There is an early suspicion that BMW has used a test bench-related defeat device,” prosecutors said in a statement.

BMW have long denied its cars are equipped with software designed to manipulate emissions tests, BMW said the findings did not reveal a “targeted manipulation” of emissions cleaning.

The automaker said prosecutors were looking into “erroneously allocated” software in about 11,400 vehicles of the BMW 750d and BMW M550d models.

BMW last month recalled 11,700 cars to fix engine management software, saying it discovered that the wrong programming had been installed.

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German car makers gain ground in South Korea

Mercedes and BMW both sold more cars in South Korea than General Motors (GM) for the first-time last month.

Demonstrating how premium German brands are growing in popularity and that consumers are moving away from GM after it announced a major restructuring.

BMW saw the biggest jump with February sales nearly doubling to 6,118 vehicles, industry data showed, which was just a little behind Mercedes which led the imported car rankings with 6,192 cars, up 12 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

GM’s announcement last month that it plans to shut down of one of its four factories in South Korea and was weighing the fate of the three other plants resulted in domestic retail sales nearly halving in February to 5,804.

With consumers worried about loss of after-care services and residual value, GM lost its long-held spot as South Korea’s No. 3 automaker, slipping to sixth place.

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Daimler to buy partner’s stake in Car2Go

Daimler to buy Europcar’s 25 per cent stake in short-term rental service Car2Go for $118 million, Daimler said in a statement.

Daimler and BMW are already in discussions to combine their short-term rental services Car2Go and DriveNow to develop driverless taxis.  

Germany’s two biggest luxury automakers are gaining a strong presence in the mobility market which is currently dominated by Uber and Didi Chuxing in China.

Daimler and BMW want to build a joint business that includes short-term rental, ride-hailing, electric vehicle charging, and digital parking services, consolidating their strong footprint in Europe.

The two companies have not confirmed the plans, but Daimler said last month it was open to considering a broader alliance and a partial listing of its mobility services operations.

The automaker said on Thursday its mobility services business was poised to expand its portfolio and its customer base, using the expertise gained from Car2Go to work toward an offering with self-driving cars.

“The goal is to develop the required expertise and resources so that we are a leader in the future business with self-driving cars,” Daimler said.

China’s Geely took a 9.7 percent stake in Daimler last week, demonstrating a desire to cooperate on technology.

Consultancy firm, PwC has said that conventional automakers could become marginalised by technology firms if they do not develop pay-per-mile mobility services.

Their share of global auto industry profits might fall from 85 per cent to less than 50 per cent by 2030.

“In this scenario, the only companies that can survive in the long-term are either those that prevail as a clear innovation leader on the product side, or those that recognise that mobility is no longer a product, but rather a service,” said Christoph Stuermer, global lead analyst at PwC Autofacts.

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Diesel fume experiments revealed

Reports of experiments that exposed humans and monkeys to diesel fumes have the Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW scrambling to distance themselves from the situation. 

The automakers are promising to investigate the tests whose disclosure now threatens to open a new phase in an emissions controversy that’s dogged the industry since 2015. 

Volkswagen has seen its reputation battered in recent years by deepening scandals.

The study, conducted by the European Research Association for Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), had 25 people expose themselves to diesel exhaust fumes at different concentrations and for several hours, the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper reported Monday.  

The actions further undermine diesel’s image, steepening an uphill battle to rescue the technology amid worsening political headwinds.

“This is another hit for diesel and shows how carmakers overstepped the mark morally and ethically in their fight to make diesel socially acceptable,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Centre of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.

“This news means more pressure for politicians to act on diesel.”

At the weekend, the German automakers also confirmed that the EUGT researchers they commissioned used monkeys to test the health effects of inhaling diesel fumes. 

The monkeys were exposed to the exhaust fumes of an older and a modern diesel vehicle, so the progress of the technology could be demonstrated. 

The circumstances of the study, and details on how it was conducted, are contained in a sworn deposition of Jake McDonald, a scientist who oversaw the project.

McDonald said in the deposition, which was taken as part of diesel emissions suit filed against Volkswagen, that the monkeys were shown cartoons during hours of tests to help keep them calm.

“We believe that the scientific methods used to conduct the study were wrong and that it would have been better not to undertake it at all,” Volkswagen said in a statement on Monday.

“We are shocked by the extent and application of the studies … We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms,” carmaker Daimler wrote.

The German government also condemned the tests. ‘These tests … are in no ethical way justifiable and they raise many critical questions about those who are behind the tests,” said Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 

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Rivals to test subscription services

Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW are preparing to launch vehicle subscription pilots in the U.S. this year.

Subscription plans offer customers a vehicle to drive for a monthly fee that includes insurance, maintenance and pickup and delivery. Customers typically can switch among available vehicles based on needs.

Luxury rivals are preparing to launch vehicle subscription pilots in the U.S. in 2018.

Mercedes will offer a pilot to figure out whether a subscription model has long-term merit.

“We need to learn,” Seeger said Monday at the Detroit auto show. “In different markets, we want to try this out.”

Mercedes is also cautious about what Seeger calls a “big threat” to the subscription model: whether the vehicle you want is available.

“On the weekend, if it’s sunshine outside and if everybody wants to have a cabriolet, and if I apply five times to have a cabriolet and I don’t get it, what does this cause?” Seeger said.

Mercedes-Benz hasn’t determined where in the U.S. it will pilot the program and when, Seeger said. The automaker has active subscription pilots operating in other countries, she said, citing a Smart-brand program in Italy and a Mercedes-brand program in Germany.

BMW is “most likely” going to go forward with a subscription model in the U.S. said BMW North America CEO, Bernhard Kuhnt.

“We are in the phase of looking at it and evaluating together with BMW Financial Services,” Kuhnt said. “And if we are going to do it, we are going to pilot it first to learn more about it.”

“At the end of the day, the consumer is going to decide if that’s something they want to do,” Kuhnt said.

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BMW outsold by Mercedes

The BMW 5-Series

BMW reported a fantastic 2017 sales record but was outsold by Mercedes-Benz. Sales of BMW brand models rose 4.2 per cent in 2017 to 2.09 million passenger cars and SUVs, the carmaker said on Friday.

In comparison, Mercedes finished the year with a 9.9 percent gain to 2.29 million, which claimed the top spot in global luxury-car sales rankings for a second year.

The BMW 5 Series , which underwent a model change during 2017, achieved growth of 55.2 per cent, or an increase of 30,359 units, in December, with sales up by 6.3 per cent or 291,856 units in the full year. BMW also sold 103,080 electrified vehicles around the world, an increase of 65.6 per cent.

As for Mercedes-Benz, the most popular model was the C-Class in both Sedan and Estate guises. Over 450,000 units were sold over the course of 2017 while the E-Class accounted for about 350,000 units of the grand total. 

BMW, which had kept the global luxury sales crown for about a decade before slipping behind Mercedes in 2016, said deliveries were fuelled by a 9.6 percent gain for its SUV line-up and a 15 per cent increase for the 1-Series.

BMW also posted a 9.5 percent gain in December registrations to 195,916 vehicles, narrowly beating Mercedes and Audi whose sales came in at 193,534 and 180,250 cars respectively.

“I’m confident BMW sales will continue to grow during 2018, while we also maintain our focus on profitability,” said new sales chief Pieter Nota.

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Tackling China’s traffic problems

As China’s personal transport options rapidly develop and evolve, BMW is researching how the latest mobility innovations can be adapted and moulded to keep the BMW brand relevant in China, the world’s largest market.

Chronic traffic congestion in China’s high-density megacities is restricting people from both buying cars and using them. This has forced automakers such as BMW to innovate.

“Growth in the future won’t come from building and selling cars but from other services,” said Thiemo Schalk, who manages BMW’s Centre of Urban Mobility Competence in Berlin.

BMW recently launched its ReachNow car-sharing scheme in the city of Chengdu, starting with a fleet of 100 i3 electric cars as the company investigates whether to expand the service to other Chinese cities.

BMW, however, knows that it needs additional mobility solutions in China so it has asked its advanced research department in Shanghai for help. The team, which works in an office tucked away in the leafy streets of the city’s old French Concession district, has been asked to take BMW into areas where no car company has ventured before.

BMW is aiming to make carpooling more attractive. “The perception right now is that carpooling is low cost. We’re trying to make it more premium,” said the head of BMW’s advanced research department in Shanghai, Markus Seidel. The project involves mining customers’ phones for GPS data to establish their daily travel patterns, encrypting that data and sending it out to try and match it with others. The second step is to treat the data the same way that a dating app would so that participants are matched with people who share similar interests.

Ride-hailing is another technology that is growing fast. China’s answer to Uber, Didi Chuxing, now achieves an astonishing 25 million rides a day in the country, according to Didi’s data.

Furthermore, Seidel and his team are working to figure out what premium customers of future BMW autonomous robo-taxis or personal cars might want. His vision incorporates elements of an airplane’s business-class cabin, complete with automated flight attendants. What that means is the car could be designed to serve passengers, such as making coffee using a robot arm that responds to voice commands.

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