BMW looking for partners to develop small electric cars

A BMW logo is seen on a car at the International Auto Show in Mexico City last week. The automaker is seeking partners to develop small electric cars. (Reuters)
Updated 30 November 2017
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BMW looking for partners to develop small electric cars

LOS ANGELES: Germany’s BMW 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 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. 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 US have fallen 10 percent through the first 10 months of this year, as demand for many smaller cars has waned in favor of sport-utility vehicles and trucks.
“It’s really only in the US where we are facing this with Mini,” Schwarzenbauer said.
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 US is ... building the Mini brand in the direction of the electric urban mobility company.”
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, Schwarzenbauer said.
“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.
 
 


Multibillion-dollar deals expected as investment forum looks east

Participants watch a movie highlighting the Red Sea project at last year’s Future Investment Initiatives conference in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Multibillion-dollar deals expected as investment forum looks east

  • The Future Investment Initiative is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China
  • The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen

RIYADH: A major investment show in Saudi Arabia is expected to attract thousands of delegates and see deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars — despite several largely “symbolic” last-minute cancelations by speakers.

The Future Investment Initiative, which starts on Tuesday, is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China, despite several executives, mostly Western, pulling out after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Many of those Western firms have however sent lower-level representatives or regional heads — with big business likely to be done, Saudi officials said.

Speakers from the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia-China Investment Fund and electronics giant Samsung are all billed to speak at the event. They join Saudi speakers including Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and sports official Princess Reema bint Bandar. 

“Investing in transformation,” “technology as opportunity” and “advancing human potential” are among the FII’s themes. Held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the three-day event is billed as a “blueprint for the 22nd century.”

Ellen Wald, president of the Transversal Consulting think-tank and author of the recent book “Saudi Inc,” said many executives — notably those from Russia and further east — were still looking to do business at the event despite some having pulled out.

“I think the big pull-out of CEOs is not really reflective of the corporate interest in the Kingdom because we see them sending their next level of executives along. So to some degree it is symbolic,” she told Arab News. “In terms of attracting foreign investment, Saudi Arabia could have strategic leverage with Russia and China, and a unique opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies.”

John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center in Saudi Arabia, said he expected the event to be a success. 

“The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen,” he told Arab News.