FRANKFURT -- The next frontier for BMW AG is growing the digital end of its business, both in its vehicles and the retail environment.
“The big catalyst of change is now the digital environment,” said Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing. “From customer behavior into the retail environment, we will step it up.”
Robertson said new consumer programs will focus on service and making it more seamless. In vehicles, improved connectivity and even autonomous driving “will weave itself into all of our next architectures,” he said in an interview at the auto show here.
“You also have this external world of digitization and how that plays out in the vehicle and what the vehicle becomes capable of -- elements such as artificial intelligence.”
Experiences at Google, which is testing an autonomous vehicle, raise the question of, “Is your car going to learn?” he said.
BMW also is looking at whether the automotive industry and information technology will converge -- and progress in both industries points to that, Robertson said.
“Maybe the question is, how capable is the auto industry of being more engaged in the IT industry? I think very capable.”
The number of lines of computer code in the redesigned 7-series sedan is “mind-blowing,” Robertson said. The 2016 7 series is BMW’s most technologically advanced car and features a suite of semiautonomous features and a self-parking system that’s operated with the driver outside the vehicle. U.S. regulations won’t permit the self-parking system, but BMW has said it is working with government authorities.
If anything, improvements in the digital world will make it easier to update cars with the latest technology and simplify features -- just look at an iPhone, Robertson said.
“All of the things you would have needed would have filled this room -- cameras, video cameras, stereo systems, record and CD players, typewriters are now all in here,” Robertson said, holding up his phone.