A BMW electric car plug is displayed during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit
JOHANNESBURG - German based vehicle manufacturer BMW has confirmed that its future was definitely electric vehicles.

Harald Krüger, the chairperson of the board of management of BMW AG, said that with its electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid models, the group was already the clear number one in Europe.

BMW was already producing electrified models at 10 locations worldwide and next year would also begin producing the all-electric Mini at its Oxford plant in the UK, while its new plant in Mexico would also start production, Krüger said last week at the release of the group’s global financial results in Munich, Germany.

“Mexico has one of the most open trade policies in the world and has benefited from this. Our new plant will produce for the global market,” he said.

Krüger said he had set clear goals for BMW for sustainability mobility.

There were more than 140000 electrified vehicles sold this year; a total of 500000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will be on the roads by the end of next year; and 25 electrified models, 12 of them pure electric, by 2025.

Krüger said the BMW group would lead the technological change and would this year be setting new strategic directions for this. He said BMW would, over the course of this year, present a number of pure electric concept vehicles that would go into series production.

These included the first all-electric BMW, the iX3; their new technology flagship BMW iNext; the BMW i Vision Dynamics, which Krüger had recently announced in Geneva as the BMW i4.

Krüger said they would produce both the iNext and BMW i4 in Germany, adding that these models were proof of BMW’s innovative strength.

He said BMW last year alone invested almost 1billion (R14.5bn) more than in 2016 and spent about 1bn more on research and development.

Krüger said the new BMW i8 Roadster and BMW i8 Coupe would be available from May this year and would boost the electric range of these plug-in hybrids by more than 40percent.

“With the fifth generation of eDrive, our vehicles will be able to drive 550km to 700km on electric power, depending on the model. We will achieve this in the BMW i4 and the iNext,” he said.

Oliver Zipse, the management board member at BMW responsible for production and chairperson of BMW South Africa, said BMW had just invested R6.2bn in South Africa, which was the group’s single biggest investment in South Africa in 50 years, but there were no specific plans for its Rosslyn plant in Pretoria to produce electric vehicles, although it could.

Much of this investment by BMW was related to the production of the new BMW X3, which would commence next month.

Zipse added that BMW had stated that by 2025 between 15percent and 25percent of its models would be electric vehicles.

Combustion engines

But Zipse stressed that if you turned that statement around, it meant more than 75percent of BMW’s cars would not be electric and a high proportion of them would be combustion engine cars.

Zipse said unlike markets like Germany, the UK, the US and China, there were markets that had not even started thinking about electric cars.

“At least for the foreseeable future until 2025, the majority of cars will have a combustion engine, despite the future being electric. That doesn’t mean the combustion engine will be replaced in the next seven or eight years.

“I cannot tell you what is going to happen in 2040 and 2050, but we will be ready to follow the markets in whatever way they go,” he said.

Zipse confirmed that BMW has had discussions with the South African government about an electric vehicle roadmap in the country and had tried to push the government on this issue.

Krüger said BMW Group had achieved all of its targets in its 2017 financial and delivered more than 2.4 million vehicles, a new all-time high.

- BUSINESS REPORT