DETROIT -- Government mandates are more likely than consumer desires to force automakers' hands in alternative-fuels development, a top BMW executive said.
Ian Robertson, BMW AG's board member for marketing, said that is one reason BMW is not limiting itself to pursuing a single green technology. Whether it is front-drive small cars, the Megacity electric vehicle or diesel, BMW is pursuing every available green technology, Robertson said at the Automotive News World Congress.
“Nobody knows which technology will have the most traction. If you don't have the full gambit, you won't satisfy regulations or customer desires,” he said.
Robertson expects electric vehicles to represent only 5 percent to 7 percent of the global mix. But if Chinese companies and research universities make a breakthrough in battery technology, Beijing could trigger a massive shift in demand by mandating EV sales in China's congested metro markets, he said.
One segment Robertson dismissed is hydrogen power. Although BMW tested the hydrogen-powered 7 series a few years ago, he said that storage and infrastructure issues make hydrogen a doubtful technology.
While automakers scramble for the alternative-fuels killer app, they also must make their existing fleets more fuel-efficient. That is why BMW plans front-drive small cars.
“There is a lot of technology allowing capable performance from front-wheel drive,” Robertson said. “Mini has always been front-wheel drive, and is known for handling and dynamics.”
He added that BMW would produce numerous vehicles derived from its small-car architecture, code-named UKL.
Said Robertson: “Small cars will be a substantial part of our business.”