BMW CEO Confident In Competition With Tech Giants

    BMW boss Oliver Zipse does not see his company’s business threatened by the advance of tech companies into the automotive industry.

    “We are not at all afraid of tech players because we work with everyone,” said Zipse on the sidelines of the CES technology fair in Las Vegas. The future of the automotive industry lies in the task of connecting hardware and software. The manufacturers would have to maintain sovereignty over the data and “have the competence to be a system integrator,” stressed Zipse. The complexity of the vehicles is a hurdle for the tech competitors: “The car is not an iPhone on wheels.”
    The technology industry has been gaining influence in the auto industry for years. For example, they offer Google and Apple smartphone users the option of having their phones take over the infotainment displays in cars. Google is also developing the Android operating system, which car manufacturers are increasingly using as the software basis in the cockpit. Google sister company Waymo is building robotaxi services, and Apple is also working on autonomous driving technology. At CES, Sony showed the prototype of a car developed with Honda, which is to be launched in 2026 under the brand name Afeela.

    At the same time, the car business is undergoing profound change. The transition to electromobility brings new vehicle architectures – and manufacturers also want to earn more money with digital services beyond car sales. Zipse sees limits to the willingness of customers to buy additional vehicle functions, for example in a subscription: If they pay 50,000 euros for a car, “they can’t say it’s not all there yet”. And if someone does not subscribe to a built-in technology, “then they installed it for free”.

    The BMW boss is skeptical about the market prospects of today’s autonomous driving systems, where the car can take control in some situations and liability lies with the manufacturer during this time. According to common classification, this is seen as level 3 of autonomous driving. At level 4, a car only drives itself under specified conditions, but human intervention should no longer be necessary.

    Competitor of BMW

    BMW competitor Mercedes has been selling a Level 3 system in some models since last year, which takes over control and liability on freeways at speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour until the human takes control back when requested.

    Zipse currently does not see the current state of the art as sufficient for a business model: “A level 3 system, whether at 60, 80 or 120 kilometers per hour, which constantly switches off in the tunnel, switches off when it rains, switches off in the dark, switches off when it’s foggy – what’s the point? No customer buys it.” No one wants to be in the shoes of a manufacturer who misinterprets a traffic situation during the liability phase, for example when handing control back to the driver. “We don’t take the risk.”

    Samsung SDI is Apparently Considering Building a Battery Plant For BMW Electric Cars in Hungary

    According to a press report, the Korean screen and battery manufacturer Samsung SDI wants to build a battery plant for BMW electric cars in Hungary. Samsung boss Jay Lee discussed the idea of expanding the existing cooperation with BMW boss Oliver Zipse in South Korea in December, the newspaper “Chosun Ilbo” reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources. Zipse recently discussed the plans for the plant with Samsung SDI boss Choi Yoon-ho in Las Vegas. A BMW spokesman commented on the information that speculation could not be commented on.

    The Samsung SDI factory could be built near the company’s existing plants in the country, according to the report. The investments are therefore estimated at around one trillion Korean won (around 750 million euros). According to a spokesman for Samsung SDI, the company is exploring different ways of working with many automakers.

    BMW is currently building a new production plant in Debrecen in Hungary for the new all-electric model series called “New Class”, which is scheduled to start in the middle of the decade. BMW is investing two billion euros in the site, including around 500 million euros for the assembly of high-voltage batteries. BMW does not manufacture battery cells itself; the company mainly obtains these from the Chinese battery group CATL.

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