BMW’s already looking beyond the electrification of vehicles to make sure it can offer customers the mobility solutions that meet their individual needs.
The concept of sustainability, as we know it today, has, almost incredibly, only been with us for the past 30 years, having appeared for the first time in the Brundtland Report that was produced by several countries for the United Nations (UN). Given its short history, German automotive giant BMW’s clearly an early adopter.
“Sustainability’s far from a novelty or new trend for BMW. We’ve been leading the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the last 20 years, which means sustainability’s been embedded in our DNA for more than two decades. At BMW, we welcome all initiatives that make mobility more sustainable,” says Eddy Haesendonck, President and CEO, BMW Group Belux. And it seems the Belgian market’s onboard. “People, especially professional and corporate clients, are increasingly ordering electrified cars. No less than 27% of our volume sold in 2020 was electrified,” Eddy Haesendonck reports.
For BMW, sustainability goes further than just electrification. “Electrification isn’t the future, it’s what we see today. We’re electrifying all our fleet from small MINIs, through BMWs and up to Rolls Royce. Everything will be electrified in the future. But we’re also investing heavily in the next generation - hydrogen technology. We see the combination of hydrogen and electricity as the hybrid solution for the future.” Eddy Haesendonck explains. And he adds, “Hydrogen-powered cars are basically electric cars that have a battery, but that battery has a range extender using hydrogen fuel cell technology. It’ll serve those who need to drive long distances without range anxiety. You can also use it ‘zero emission’ in an urban environment.”
"BMW seeks to play an active role in reducing traffic jams and assuring more efficient traffic flows."
Well aware that individuals in urban settings have different mobility needs than those in rural areas, BMW’s looking to be people’s partner for individual mobility, wherever they are. The partner they trust to serve their needs. “We see ourselves as part of the solution to mobility issues. We want to provide mobility solutions that provide an answer to what people really need. That’s why we’re investing in what we call ‘The Power of Choice’, offering various drivetrains in function of the individual needs of every customer,” Eddy Haesendonck enthuses.
That means BMW’s also further developing its internal combustion engines (ICE), like petrol and diesels, with 48 Volt Technology. “And we’re investing in two-wheelers: motorcycles as well as fully electrified city scooters, so that you can have a combination of mobility solutions depending on your needs,” Eddy Haesendonck adds. By the end of 2023, BMW will have 25 electrified cars on offer. By 2030, its vehicles will be 50% electrified. Rather than standing aside and watching traffic jams get worse every year, BMW seeks to play an active role in reducing them and assuring more efficient traffic flows, whether it be for ‘owned’ vehicles or in a sharing context.
With sustainability business as usual, BMW focuses on delivering captivating customer experiences. “BMW stands for sheer driving pleasure. That’s at the core of everything we offer. And we try to go beyond that to create emotions and build communities. I think that’s key for any brand,” Eddy Haesendonck says. He adds, “If you’ve a premium product, you also need to deliver experiences and emotions. We invest a lot in what we call the joy of the brand; everyone likes our sheer driving pleasure, but also wants to be part of the BMW community. So we devise community building activities that create emotions.”
Just like PwC, BMW’s a partner to Belgium’s national football teams the Red Devils and the Red Flames. “Again, it’s about building communities. Being part of the pride that people feel by being part of something so successful,” Eddy Haesendonck notes.
Already in the throes of business transformation, BMW saw the digitalisation of its business catapulted forward with COVID-19.
“One of our strengths is that we invest massively in new technologies. We all know we need to evolve. At BMW, we call this performing whilst transforming. Before COVID-19 hit, we were already busy with the full digitalisation of traditional processes. The pandemic accelerated many of our initiatives. We’d already created an app via which customers could book appointments for a service 24/7, drop their car off outside business hours and pick up a replacement vehicle. The same goes for the sales process, we’d developed a virtual showroom with a virtual sales advisor. We offer not only information on features and prices, but also tax advice. We go beyond the traditional services a car manufacturer would deliver,” Eddy Haesendonck states.
The drive and creativity of people at BMW comes from their being encouraged to stay fit and active, something that’s very important in times of COVID-19.
“With a challenge like this, it all depends on the cooperation between leadership and the team. Because when things get critical, it’s people and their commitment that make the difference. At BMW Belux, I’m the living example of mens sana in corpore sano. With the rest of the management team, we truly try to walk the talk. During the pandemic, we’ve been encouraging people to do sports daily, to help them stay fit. We stay connected with them, not just during video calls, but again by building communities, in the same way we do for customers. The morale of our associates has been impressive and fills me with confidence,” says Eddy Haesendonck. And it’s paid off. In a market that went down by 22%, BMW only saw a drop of 0.7%.
BMW’s long-term view is also mirrored in the way it interacts with suppliers, like PwC for its annual financial audit.
“We aim not only for sustainable products, but sustainable relationships too. I think that’s one of the strengths of BMW. We want to work with outside parties for the long term because that’s really beneficial. You get to know each other, you trust each other. Indeed, the feedback that I get from the team that collaborates with the PwC team on a daily basis is that there’s really a good and solid base of trust. And that’s important.”