BMW Chief Executive Harald Krüger is preparing the German automaker for a not-too-distant future when his main rivals will no longer just be automakers like Audi and Daimler, but technologists like Google, Tesla and Apple.
In an interview with Handelsblatt, Mr. Krüger, who took over the top job at the world’s best-selling premium automaker in May, said BMW’s focus will increasingly shift to electric cars.
The reason for the shift, said Mr. Krüger, 50, is in part the likely tightening of emissions limits for diesel engines in the wake of Volkswagen’s software-rigging scandal, which will have an effect on all automakers, including BMW.
Without diesel engines, automakers will be unable to reach the European Union’s fuel consumption and emissions limits planned for 2020 and beyond, he said.
“But in the future, the point will be reached at which it will be simply uneconomical to adapt diesel drive systems to the requirements of an increasingly ambitious legislation,” Mr. Krüger said. “Then electric mobility will play the decisive role.”
The BMW top manager will present the automaker’s new 10-year strategy next spring. It’s already clear that the Munich company will accelerate into electric technology.
BMW introduced its mini e-car, the i3, in 2013, to modest success. It is working on improving the i3 and plans to roll out an open-top version of the hybrid i8 sports car plus debut a new electric car. BMW is also working on fuel cell technology with Japanese partner Toyota.
But support from the German government for the transition to e-cars — including heavy taxpayer subsidies — will be key, he said.
“It’s decisive that the government provides clear impetus in the form of purchase subsidies, tax relief or help in building an infrastructure for charging,” Mr. Krüger said.
If the government does not support electric car technology and give consumers an incentive to buy the vehicles, Germany will fail to reach its goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2020, he warned.