Exclusive: BMW bosses to skip Paris show to thrash out electric car strategy
By Edward Taylor, Irene Preisinger and Jake Spring
FRANKFURT/MUNICH (Reuters) - BMW's (BMWG.DE: Quote) management board is skipping the Paris Motor Show to hold talks aimed at breaking a deadlock over whether to produce new electric cars, including a battery-powered Mini, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Spurred on by the success of U.S. rival Tesla (TSLA.O: Quote), which has received almost 400,000 pre-orders for its Model 3 car, German carmakers Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) have accelerated their own electric car program.
VW, for example, has said it plans to launch more than 30 electric vehicles over the next decade, forecasting they would account for about a quarter of group deliveries by 2025.
Executives across the industry predict electric cars will increasingly gain mainstream acceptance among customers thanks to advances that make batteries get cheaper and more powerful and the VW emissions scandal, which has sparked a regulatory backlash against diesel-engine vehicles.
But BMW has been torn about whether to accelerate development of new electric cars, given its expensive early investments into the area which resulted in only lackluster sales of its i3, which saw only 25,000 deliveries last year.
Norbert Reithofer championed the i3 project while chief executive of the Munich-based carmaker and, in his new role as chairman, is keeping up pressure on new CEO Harald Krueger and BMW management to expand the company's electric program.
But some other senior executives are unwilling to plough more resources into electric cars until i3 sales improve and there is a clearer business case for such investment, according to one of the four sources, who declined to be named because of the confidential nature of the discussions.
Most of BMW's eight-strong management board - including the CEO and chief financial officer - traditionally attend the closed-door press and executive days of the biennial Paris Motor Show for one of the biggest industry gatherings of the calendar. Continued...