The BMW i world premiere in New York, London and Beijing: How BMW gives the impression that it no longer builds combustion engines.

i3 premiere: Norbert Reithofer in New York

i3 premiere: Norbert Reithofer in New York


BMW Group boss Norbert Reithofer certainly does not consider exaggerations to be the basis of communicative work. When introducing the “electrically born” i3, however, he avoided any kind of reserved modesty. Ultimately, the aim was to call out nothing less than “a revolution” that would change our society: the electric car, initially in the form of the futuristic, cute BMW i3.

His colleagues Ian Robertson, Herbert Diess in London and Harald Krüger and Friedrich Eichiner in Beijing, who were also not characterized by rhetorical restraint, were connected at the same time. In unison, the high-profile heralds of future mobility announced to the world that a new age had begun.

In New York, Norbert Reithofer started with colleague Peter Schwarzenbauer and compared the electric car with the invention of the mobile phone, which after 100 years of fixed-line telephony had totally changed the way people communicate with each other.

BMW i3 in New York: unveiled for the first time

BMW i3 in New York: unveiled for the first time

The auto industry had waited 100 years for a revolution. A sentence like chiseled in stone, better: baked in carbon, which would probably not pass the fact check. Because the auto industry has never waited for a revolution, but has evolved from evolution to evolution. A further step in Darwinian selection is that the auto industry is not starting a revolution with the electric car, but instead declaring the electric drive to be the drive of the future for the first time. The better displaces the good. But the good, namely the combustion engine, will hold its own for a few more decades. Norbert Reithofer knows that too. But he also knows that the electric car will come on a broad basis and become a bestseller. Only nobody knows when that will be.

For BMW boss Norbert Reithofer, the change from the combustion engine to the new i3 is actually a bigger step than the change from the carriage to the car. Well, yes. A little bit of an exaggeration is allowed. But that sounds a little too presumptuous. Because the electric car is also driven by a motor and takes us from A to B or makes the way to the goal.

His sentence that the auto industry had waited so long for this leap forward is more an expression of his consistent goal orientation. "Today the wait is over," Reithofer announced in all modesty in New York. And it definitely sounded as if BMW would no longer build vehicles with an internal combustion engine. BMW also remains consistent in the communication of the new i3, which may look a bit like balancing act for some observers. At the same time, having to sell large-volume combustion engines and praising the i3 as a future model is only a contradiction at first glance. We'll all be electric in a few decades, and maybe the buzz of today's power engines will only be heard at classic car events. With the i3, which was designed as an electric vehicle right from the start, BMW has at least created a head start on the path that all manufacturers will and will have to go at some point. Whether with a battery or a fuel cell - at some point electric motors are not just a duty, but a necessity, because the oil supply is running out. And if it is only in 100 years.

The i3 is not an evolution, but a huge leap forward. Peter Schwarzenbauer, who came to BMW from Audi a few months ago, even said: "BMW has never been so proud to introduce a new car to the world." Here, the combustion group at BMW might have flinched a bit, because they too were and are rightly proud of their new ideas, which approach the physical limit to the greatest possible economy. The electric car - not only for BMW - is a pure necessity to meet the increasingly stringent consumption regulations. For this reason, it is essential for Germany's auto industry that the super credits, i.e. the eligible zero-emission vehicles, are calculated at least 3: 1.

When it comes to promoting new technologies, the big difference between the United States and Europe becomes clear. While Europe is considering selling the internal combustion engine at high cost from city centers, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg promises to equip 20 percent of parking spaces in New York with charging stations in the next seven years to bring more electric cars into the city. The clearly better way: to convince drivers with an offer instead of educating them with fines.

The i3 premiere may have exaggerated communicatively in many places, but those who strive for such a goal as consistently and elaborately as BMW must not be quiet. BMW i is also absolutely goal-oriented when it comes to marketing communication. Even if the BMW i business model should remain uncertain in the medium term, the lead gained is an investment that will eventually bear fruit.



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