NEW YORK -- BMW AG's new venture capital company is setting up shop here to invest in startups specializing in Internet and wireless services providing information about traffic conditions, entertainment and even public transit.
It's a way for BMW to move into "mobility services that do not have to be connected to the car," said Joerg Reimann, managing director of the i Ventures unit. "We are focusing on the consumer and his changing habits, emerging media and technology trends."
Reimann said consumers in big cities own cars but also use public transit and are hungry for information. They often seek out restaurants and other spots by using mobile devices.
BMW wanted a presence in this emerging area of services that is "independent from the car," Reimann said. "They could migrate into the car, but that is not the primary purpose."
The i Ventures investments will be part of BMW's plan to move beyond luxury vehicles into small and electric cars for urban customers. BMW also is developing an i vehicle subbrand that will market an electric vehicle called the i3 starting in 2013.
The i3 will be aimed at young urban buyers, said Bernhard Blaettel, director of BMW's project mobility services. He said BMW wants to create mobile and information services that not only will help consumers "get from A to B," but "motivate them to get into our products."
BMW named Edward Robinson, 56, president of i Ventures, which was formed in February. Robinson will continue as CEO of BMW Financial Services for the Americas.
The first investment by i Ventures was in the New York startup My City Way, which provides information on public transit, traffic and entertainment in New York and other cities through a mobile application or the Internet.