The electric car wars got another combatant on Thursday courtesy of BMW, which his aiming to take on Tesla and other automakers who are developing electric cars. BMW announced that its autonomous car will be in showrooms in 2021. The iNext electric car will be BMW’s new flagship model.
The addition to the automaker’s iNext sub-brand, which already includes the i3 EV and i8 plug-in hybrid, will rely heavily on BMW’s autonomous driving technology. CEO Harald Krueger commented that BMW intends for the car to be self-driving in many situations.
Krueger made his comments during a BMW shareholder meeting. The new flagship electric will feature cutting-edge electric powertrain that BMW believes is a worthy challenger to Tesla. The sedan is also going forward with an all new interior. BMW also has significant market share in the luxury-car electric market, but it is being pushed hard by Tesla.
Krueger said the iNext will be “our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”
The Vision Next 100 prototype was revealed in March. Its futuristic concept is a testament to BMW’s ideas for how cars should evolve and adapt to an environment favoring self-driving cars. These ideas are being spouted in order to take on Tesla as well as Mercedes-Benz and Audi, which are also going forward aggressively with self-driving vehicles.
BMW is also focusing on how urban customers share rides. The company will expand into mobility services, and has paired with a car-sharing service in Seattle to give city dwellers the ability to summon a chauffeur service. The Seattle business also lets people rent their own cars out to other people.
The impetus between BMW’s big plans is that it is at risk of losing the top spot in the global luxury car market for the first time since 2005. Its traditional rival Mercedes-Benz was able to leapfrog BMW with a new product lineup and a redesign of some of its old standards. It took the lead during the first quarter, with sales doubling twice as fast as BMW.
The challenge by Mercedes has led to a price war, as BMW cuts prices to draw consumers to its older models. The average price of a BMW declined by nearly 6 percent in the first quarter, a drop of about $38,500/33,700 Euros. This is in part due to an increased demand for crossovers and SUVs. The X1 SUV for exampled powered past sales of the revamped 7-series sedan, according to a detailed report in Bloomberg.
BMW still has reason for positivity. Krueger told shareholders that the company is still on course to meet its 2016 profit targets, achieving small increases in pretax profit and car sales for the seventh record year in a row. “After our first quarter, we are on track for the full year,” Krueger said. “We have always stressed that our centenary is a springboard to the future.” Krueger has been in the position for a year so his imprint is clearly on BMW going forward.