BMW board member for Research and Development, Klaus Froelich, had a conversation with Reuters at the Geneva Motor Show. He made it clear that BMW is pressing forward with new technology to assure that “newcomers” don’t pull ahead. He said:
“Our task is to preserve our business model without surrendering it to an Internet player. Otherwise we will end up as the Foxconn for a company like Apple, delivering only the metal bodies for them.”
As most of us know, it has been reported that Apple planned to use BMW’s i3 as the foundation for the Apple Car. Early on, there were multiple reports and observations linking the two companies.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team visited the BMW electric car plant and had talks about a possible “team effort”. However, nothing public came of it and it was reported that there has been no agreement.
Following the visits and discussions, a senior BMW executive shared:
“Apple executives were impressed with the fact that we abandoned traditional approaches to car making and started afresh. It chimed with the way they do things too.”
BMW plans to hire an abundance of computer programmers in the next five years. The goal is for half of its Research and Development employees to focus on software. Currently the number is only 20 percent. Froehlich admitted that the company will have to partner and farm out some of this, as fully “in-house” is not a possibility.
This is a tough spot to be in since BMW must be cautious to not become part of the supply chain. But these advanced technologies may require assistance from software giants like Apple. Likewise, newcomers to the auto industry may need help from trusted automakers.
Will such agreements become almost a forced necessity? Is it a win-win . . . a lose-lose . . . or just the nature of the beast?