BMW enthusiasts certainly know what generation of cars Neue Klasse refers to, but soon the name will stand for an entirely new chapter of the marque’s history. The Munich-based automaker laid out a new three-part strategy for the future centered on a redefined IT and software architecture, high-performance electric batteries and drivetrains, and also a new focus on sustainability throughout the each vehicle’s life cycle. A new vehicle architecture will embody these three strands as the automaker turns to electrification and digitalization, without losing BMW’s familiar driving character.
“The BMW Group is never satisfied with what it has achieved so far – that’s what sets it apart from the rest of the field. This spirit will characterize the Neue Klasse: high tech on four wheels for customers intent on experiencing in just five years’ time how mobility will feel in 2030,” said Oliver Zipse, BMW AG’s Chairman of the Board of Management.
What will the Neue Klasse generation of vehicles offer?
When it comes to digitalization, the first part of this strategy will arrive later this year with BMW’s Operating System 8, promised to be most powerful processing system the brand has ever fielded. The BMW iX will be the first vehicle with this system on board, but it will quickly spread to other vehicles, offering the eighth generation of iDrive with over-the-air updates. The automaker says by the end of this year it will have the largest fleet of vehicles on the road with the capability to install or upgrade existing functions via OTA updates.
As for electrification, BMW plans to have a dozen battery-electric models on the road by 2023, covering about 90 of segments it currently offers. Later this year the BMW iX and i4 will join the i3, Mini Cooper SE and BMW iX3 on the road, with battery-electric versions of the X1 and the 5-Series scheduled to follow.
“The launch of the BMW iX and the BMW i4 will signalize the start of our technology offensive in 2021: these two all-electric vehicles will set the benchmark for BEVs going forward,” Zipse noted.
The automaker will also field an 7-Series EV in the near future, while Mini gains a battery-electric successor to the Mini Countryman. In total, BMW plans to have electric models spanning several brands in 9 out of 10 segments in which it fields vehicles.
“We are consciously adopting a broad approach with our all-electric offering rather than staying niche,” Zipse added.
BMW also plans to use highly scalable modules for powertrains and platforms able to underpin many different segments of Neue Klasse vehicles. The models themselves are promised to feature aerodynamic designs but more spacious interiors than today’s lineup, signaling gains in usable space as a result of battery-electric powertrains. The Neue Klasse powertrains will be able to be used for volume models and high-performance models alike, with BMW planning to blur this line with the adoption of new powertrains. And they will also feature advanced driver assistance systems.
The automaker also intends to focus on recyclable materials in cars, adopting an approach it calls “secondary first,” prioritizing secondary materials wherever availability and quality factors allow.
“We are intent on ensuring that the ‘greenest’ electric car on the market is made by BMW,” Zipse added.
When it comes to just when we’re going to see radical results of this new strategy on the road, BMW says that by 2030 battery-electric models will account for at least 50 percent of its global deliveries based on current market expectations, and that all model series will include fully electric vehicles as options. BMW expects the number of battery-electric vehicles in the BMW Group to grown 20% annually between 2025 and 2030.
“By that stage, across the entire product portfolio, all market segments in which the BMW Group operates will include at least one fully electric model,” the automaker says. “In fact, a number of segments may well be served exclusively by fully electric models. Accordingly, the BMW Group will also be capable of providing a significantly higher market share of fully electric vehicles, assuming demand develops accordingly. The BMW Group expects to have around ten million fully electric vehicles on roads worldwide over the next ten years or so.”
Overall, BMW’s strategy envisions a much bigger role for internal combustion engines after 2030 than several other automakers’ do, while also leaving room for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The company projects at least 50% of its global deliveries being electric vehicles by that date, likely taking into account numerous overseas markets where EV adoption is barely a blip on the radar. The automaker’s goal of using what it calls “highly scalable modules” is in line with the expectations of several other automakers, needing just a few platforms to underpin a wide variety of vehicles, because quite a few models will feature skateboard platforms of different lengths, with different suspensions. The rapidly approaching adoption of such flexible platforms for battery-electric vehicles is already a trend, even though we’re only seeing the tip of this iceberg when it comes to BMW.
“The BMW Group has ambitious plans for 2021. We have started the new year with strong momentum and are aiming to return to pre-crisis levels as swiftly as possible – and go even further,” Zipse said.
Will gasoline engines have a role to play in BMW’s lineup when it comes to U.S. buyers’ demand after 2030? Let us know in the comments below.
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