MUNICH -- BMW will increase productivity at its car plants worldwide by 5 percent a year, production head Norbert Reithofer says.
The move is part of the German automaker's drive to cut costs and improve efficiency in response to a slack market, weak U.S. dollar and rising raw-material prices, Reithofer told Automobilwoche, the German sister publication of Automotive News.
To achieve greater productivity, BMW has:
BMW strives for 100 percent capacity utilization. "If a plant fell below 90 percent, we would have made a mistake," Reithofer says.
The company achieves high capacity utilization by building at least two models in each plant. It then tries to arrange the life cycles of the models so that when one car suffers low demand, there is high demand for the other vehicle.
Reithofer says Lexus was BMW's quality benchmark, not vehicles from German rivals Mercedes-Benz AG or Audi AG.
BMW's ambition is to overtake Lexus in the J.D. Power and Associates vehicle dependability study in the United States, he says.
In last year's survey, Lexus was the highest-ranked brand for the 10th straight year. BMW, the best-ranked European brand, took the fifth spot.
"We are ambitious enough to set ourselves the goal of being the best," Reithofer says.
"Our speed of innovation is already better than Toyota's," he says. "I doubt that Toyota could offer the complex, individually tailored vehicles that we offer with the level of quality that we have."
Reithofer says it is possible that coachbuilder Magna Steyr, which produces the X3 SUV for BMW in Graz, Austria, could receive more contracts.
He expects BMW's new Leipzig, Germany, plant to build almost 50,000 3-series models this year.
Production started at the plant on March 1.
Asked when BMW would begin building the 1 series at Leipzig, Reithofer replied: "I will only say this: The current 1 series, which is built at Regensburg (Germany), will not go to Leipzig."