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But BMW isn’t bitter and doesn’t roll that way. Although Tesla is seen as the leader in the electric car segment, BMW’s i division seems to be a gracious competitor that can appreciate everything the American automaker has done.
“At Tesla and BMW i, we share the same attitude that new technology needs to be emotionally desirable otherwise it will never work,” said Wieland Brúch, media relations manager of BMW i and electric mobility. “I think they did a wonderful job in terms of emotionalizing e-mobility because as long as e-mobility means just getting emissions-free driving from A to B, that’s not sufficient to make it a success.”
Prior to Tesla, electric cars were boring and only “the treehuggers” were buying them, Brúch said, but that approach wasn’t going to make EVs mainstream and truly successful. “They are doing a very good job to help e-mobility become more widespread,” he said. “We think Tesla is very helpful in pushing e-mobility and we are welcoming everyone member of the e-mobility team.”
Rather than see Tesla and Jaguar as threats, the latter of which is new to the electric vehicle segment with its i-Pace crossover, Brúch says BMW i welcomes the competition of anyone who is working towards the goal of mass adoption for electric cars. BMW is especially welcoming of Tesla, which changed attitudes towards electric cars by making them sexy and elevating them to status symbols.
“This is exactly the development we need to get e-mobility on the screen of everybody,” he said, adding that the more visibility EVs get, the better.
But the real reason BMW probably doesn’t see Tesla as a big threat? The German automaker has 100 years of history and the reputation and manufacturing expertise to match it. Its EV sales also aren’t too shabby. Last, year, the BMW i brand sold about the same amount of electrified vehicles as Tesla, around 103,000 globally. Just to put that into perspective, the i brand sold more cars last year than the BMW M brand, whose tally was 76,000 units globally. BMW, as well as its i brand, which is 10 years old, has its production and distribution down to an art, which are things Tesla still struggles with. And as long as people trust BMW to make status symbols, people will still buy its cars, whether they are electric or not, and BMW says that is what will give it a competitive edge.