BMW looking for partners to develop electric small cars
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[November 29, 2017]
By Joseph White
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Germany's BMW AG is
talking with other automakers "around the world" to try to find partners
to lower the cost of electrifying its future Mini small cars, management
board member Peter Schwarzenbauer told Reuters.
"We are talking to many OEMs (manufacturers) around the world, not only
in China, (about) how to electrify smaller cars," Schwarzenbauer said.
"There's no final conclusion on it."
Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor Co <601633.SS> said last month it was
discussing a possible venture to build Mini vehicles in China. BMW
currently does not build Mini vehicles outside Europe.
Schwarzenbauer declined to discuss the Great Wall situation, saying
"this was speculation."
However, he said building smaller electric cars was challenging, not
only because of the financial costs, but also the engineering problem of
fitting batteries with sufficient range into a smaller vehicle package.
BMW has worked with rivals before to share the costs of clean vehicle
technology. The automaker has a partnership with Japan's Toyota Motor
Corp <7203.T> to develop fuel cell vehicles.
BMW has said it plans to launch a new, electric Mini model in 2019.
Eventually, Mini could become an entirely electric brand, aimed at urban
consumers, Schwarzenbauer said.
Mini sales in the United States have fallen 10 percent through the first
ten months of this year, as demand for many smaller cars has waned in
favor of sport-utility vehicles and trucks.
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A BMW logo is seen on a car at the International Auto Show in Mexico
City, Mexico November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero
"It's really only in the U.S. where we are facing this with Mini,"
BMW will not try to reverse that trend by adding larger SUVs to the Mini lineup,
Schwarzenbauer said. Instead, he said, "the way for Mini in the U.S. is ...
building the Mini brand in the direction of the electric urban mobility
On a separate issue, Schwarzenbauer said BMW intended to offer a self-driving
car planned to debut in 2021 at a price that could be below $100,000.
The iNEXT model, which BMW previewed earlier this year, will be offered to
individuals, ride services fleets and put into service in BMW fleets,
"By 2021, you will have a lot of people who want to own this car," he said. "It
will be a normal price. We are thinking of scaling this. To bring a $150,000
electric car is nice, but it will not really scale."
When it launches, the iNEXT may not be offered with complete, so-called Level 5,
autonomy because the regulatory and legal frameworks for such a vehicle likely
won't be in place, Schwarzenbauer said.
(Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Mark Potter)
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