BMW will continue to enter new segments as it expands its lineup of X-model crossovers, says CEO Norbert Reithofer. The group also will add vehicles using its new front-wheel-drive platform -- both for BMW and Mini.
But Reithofer, 58, said there are no plans for a BMW model below the 1 series, and neither will there be a mini-Mini, without a partner.
He was interviewed by Pia Krix of German sister publication Automobilwoche. This is a translation.
Q: Audi wants to be the largest premium manufacturer in the world, Mercedes wants to retake that position and you want to defend it. Are sales figures really the right indicator for a premium automaker?
A: We have been at the summit of the premium segment for 10 years. When it comes to volume, we are now actually involved in a thought process. BMW now holds a global market share between 2 and 3 percent. In Germany, the three premium automakers now have a share of about 30 percent. The competition could hardly be any more intense. That is why we did without the sale of a few thousand vehicles in Germany last year.
That means BMW would rather sell one fewer car in Europe and sell one more in China?
Yes. At the same time, it depends on the individual markets. The price level in Europe and Germany continues to be good.
BMW has expanded its Spartanburg, S.C., factory and is planning a new facility in the North American Free Trade Agreement zone. Is your greatest potential there along with China?
Yes, clearly. This is a growing market for us. We have continued to expand capacity in Spartanburg, where we build the X models. Now, we are adding another 150,000 units onto that, the capacity of an entire factory. That will put us at 450,000 units. As far as the additional factory in the NAFTA zone is concerned, we will make a definitive decision before the summer break [in August].
Nearly a third of BMW's total sales now come from X models, and now you are adding the X4 and X7.
This will certainly give us a share of more than 30 percent.
This year, BMW is introducing 12 new models and four face-lifts. Can BMW maintain this pace?
We will continue at this pace. We have a high frequency of launches in 2015 and 2016 as well.
How far can BMW expand the product lineup?
We want to continue to expand our product offerings across all vehicle segments, including numerous models without predecessors, like the BMW 2-series Active Tourer, the i8 and the X4.
When will the new fwd architecture, used for the first time in the Active Tourer and the new Mini, pay its way?
We need a common architecture for front- and all-wheel drive to be able to grow profitably in the small-car and compact segments. This is especially important for Mini, since its volumes are not high enough in the long run. Since BMW and Mini products share the same architecture, we are arriving at totally different volumes: up to 1 million units in the compact segment in the future. That gives us totally different economies of scale.
Will BMW develop other models along the lines of the 2-series Active Tourer?
We will certainly derive something from the Active Tourer.
Are you planning a BMW below the 1 series?
No. We have made the internal decision to cover the segment with the Mini brand.
The new platform is making larger Minis possible. In Geneva, BMW showed a longer Clubman concept. How big can Mini grow -- in volumes as well as size?
A Mini in the concept's size will reach the market. Based on the new vehicle architecture, it is possible to derive models between 150 and 177 inches long. As far as volumes go, the Mini will not remain at the current 300,000 units.
Mini sales have declined 13 percent in the first four months of the year.
Our goal is to surpass the level last year. We are now in the middle of the model changeover for our core [Mini Cooper hardtop] model and the launch preparations for the five-door hatch.
With the Rocketman concept car in 2011, you displayed a Mini positioned below the Mini Cooper hardtop. Is a mini-Mini still an option?
At the moment, we do not have the right architecture for it. Something like it would only be possible with a partner.
So the mini-Mini would be too expensive by itself?
It would never, ever work from a business standpoint.