BMW downplays alternate powertrains

Diana Kuylko covers various import brands headquartered in the New York area for Automotive News.
NEW YORK -- BMW isn’t optimistic about the future of hybrids, plug-in electrics and hydrogen cars in the United States -- at least in the near future.

That’s a grim forecast coming from a brand that has been active in hydrogen technology. But Jim O’Donnell, president of BMW of North America LLC, predicted today that 85 percent of the vehicles selling in the United States in 2020 will be powered by an internal combustion engine -- which includes diesel power.

O’Donnell, speaking at a manufacturing panel on the eve on the New York auto show, says the major reason for his skepticism is the high cost of the new technologies.

BMW prefers to meet the challenges of fuel economy regulations by replacing six-cylinder engines with smaller, more economical and perhaps even more powerful four-cylinder powerplants in the future.

Toyota is taking a vastly different approach. Jim Lentz, COO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., said by 2020 there will be a hybrid powertrain -- as an option or even as standard equipment -- in each of Toyota’s car lines. Lentz is also banking on electric cars and said a plug-in will debut in 2012.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@autonews.com