BMW AG unveiled the first prototype of its future range of electric vehicles, ushering in a new stage in the battle to catch up with Tesla Inc. and defend sales in its most important market, China.
The Vision Neue Klasse concept car, on display at the Munich Motor Show next week, shows off BMW’s special EV underpinnings, scheduled for 2025 – around the time Mercedes-Benz Group AG launches its new battery-powered ones models presented. Software problems have delayed similar architectures from Volkswagen AG and pushed back key Porsche and Audi vehicles.
With the sleek coupé, BMW is breaking away from a decades-long tradition in which the performance of its “ultimate driving machines” was primarily advertised. Instead, it touts a digital display projected across the entire width of the windshield, as well as software that can process voice commands and hand gestures. The move is a nod to customers in China who are increasingly choosing homegrown brands like BYD Co. and Nio Inc. that are better at building electric vehicles with equipment tailored to local tastes.
“The New Class sets our course for the next decades,” said CEO Oliver Zipse.
BMW, Mercedes and Audi long dominated sales of premium internal combustion engine cars in China, but have been left behind by the country’s rapid shift to electric vehicles.
BYD dethroned VW as China’s top-selling automaker this year, and Mercedes cut prices for its flagship electric sedan there late last year after disappointing sales. Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are expected to account for 90% of the world’s largest automotive market by the end of this decade, increasing the urgency for premium Western brands to accelerate their offerings. A price war in China initiated by Tesla has also increased the pressure.
BMW is growing in China, especially with electric cars, and the carmaker is not affected by the price war due to its positioning in the premium segment, Zipse told journalists in Munich on Saturday. The New Class, he added, will be even more profitable than the company’s current lineup of battery-powered cars.
BMW’s top-of-the-line Neue Klasse models will have a range of up to 800 kilometers (497 miles) and will charge from 10% to 80% in under half an hour, numbers that probably don’t make them the best in their class. Last year, an electric prototype from Mercedes drove more than 1,000 kilometers on a single charge.
However, according to a recent consumer survey by consulting firm AlixPartners, BMW still ranks second in China when it comes to the technical features of its cars. BMW finished behind Geely’s Zeekr, but ahead of Xpeng, Tesla and VW.
Despite the new focus on digital features, BMW will not completely abandon its brand traditions. While most electric vehicles these days offer quick acceleration, Zipse says the New Class will be more fun to drive at higher speeds than many competitors.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)