BMW CEO says time is right for electric shift

BMW’s has got the timing right for its shift to electric cars.

That’s according to CEO Oliver Zipse – who said upcoming products will upend the perception that the German carmaker is behind electrification.

''You know, there is a perception that we took a break. We actually didn't take a break. We waited for the moment and prepared for the moment when electromobility is really getting into higher volumes. And that is happening from 2021 onwards. And right at that point, we are in the market.''

Carmakers are racing to develop electric vehicles amid tightening CO2 emission standards in Europe and China.

BMW says it expects half of its sales to be fully-electric models by 2030.

Zipse also told Reuters that the company's sustainability plans include reducing CO2 emissions from the entire lifespan of its vehicles – from raw materials, production process, to their use on the road by a cumulative 200 megatons by 2030.

''And that is about seven times the emissions of London like a city like London.’’

‘We take a flexible stance, we don’t take a cautious stance. Our electric-only mobility will grow by 50% until 2025. This is our ambition. So there's a very progressive path toward electric mobility. But at the same time, we have to focus on flexibility to follow the markets because we serve more than 140 countries and every country will go a little bit of a different route. The biggest rate of change will be in the electric mobility sector, but until 2030 it will not be electric only.''

The company recently announced it had signed a $335 million contract with U.S.-based Livent…which will supply the German carmaker with lithium, a key ingredient in battery cells, from 2022.

BMW currently builds combustion engines, hybrid and electric models on shared platforms, which critics say compromise the performance of electric vehicles…and will not launch a dedicated electric platform until 2025.

"We offer everything from Mini to Rolls-Royce. You know, you cannot put that on one single platform. And if you look at what is happening in the market with these platforms, the cars all look alike. You know, and BMW is a manufacturer who serves very specific, high paying customers. I think they don't want cars who all look alike, you know, and I think the management of these technology stocks is the biggest efficiency potential that is there.''

BMW's approach is seen as being more conservative in comparison to its rivals.

Volkswagen has developed its own electric vehicle platform from the ground up.

Daimler AG plans to unveil its first Mercedes-Benz model on a dedicated electric platform in April 2021.

Looking to the future, Zipse said he expected the European Union to further tighten its CO2 emission targets for 2030…something he said BMW will be ready for.

''We will grow. And that big, big unbalance between our equity, which is over 60 million, our market cap is somewhere over 50, 50 billion euros. So there's a mismatch. And we are working on that, of course, to get that into the right balance again.''