Pieter Nota is one of the rare executives from outside the car industry to land a top job at a German automaker. After nearly 30 years at consumer giants Unilever, Beiersdorf and Philips, the Dutch manager started at BMW a year ago as head of sales at the namesake brand. He has his hands full as competition for leadership in the premium sector intensifies and the shift toward electrified, connected and autonomous cars accelerates. He discussed these challenges and more with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Andrea Malan.
Is it a goal at BMW to reclaim the title of world’s top-selling premium brand from Mercedes-Benz?
Of course, we have that objective and the launch of the X7 SUV and the renewal of the overall X range play a very important role here. But we define “No. 1” in multiple ways. It is not only unit sales but also profitability and being fit for the future. We have defined a triangle [with the three key points being] growth, profitability and future fitness. All are being equally important.
How do you define fit for the future?
A variety of factors are involved. These include the strength of our brands, which we regularly measure and invest in, and the development and investment in future technologies, such as those that are incorporated in the BMW Vision iNext.
Do you already know who will be potential buyers of the iNext the electric, autonomous and connected SUV arrives in 2021?
The iNext will be a truly innovative vehicle, so those first customers are likely to be early adopters. In terms of size, it is like an X5.
Are some potential iNext buyers currently driving a Tesla Model X?
That could very well be the case, so we want to give all BMW fans no excuse to choose a competitor, because with the iNext we will have the right offer for them.
What is your outlook for electric cars in Europe, North America and China?
Electrification shows very different levels of adoption across different regions and even within regions. It is very successful in Norway and less so in countries such as Italy. In Germany, for example, we also see big differences between cities, mainly due to infrastructure. It remains very difficult to forecast the penetration of electric vehicles, which is why flexibility is one of the pillars of our strategy.
How many electrified vehicles will BMW have to sell to comply with tougher EU CO2 limits that start to take effect in 2020?
I can only say that in 2017 we sold more than 100,000 electrified vehicles and we were on track to reach our goal of 140,000 [for 2018]. By the end of this year, we will have a combined 500,000 electrified vehicles on the road and in 2025 we will have at least 25 electrified vehicles, of which half will be full-electric and the rest will be plug-in hybrids.