BMW has always been known for making enthusiast-centric cars and the Bavarian carmaker demonstrated this ability by launching the M2 in India with a manual gearbox. We sit down with the man responsible for making it happen as he explains his philosophy.
Vikram, I drove here in a manual M2 because I wanted to meet the man responsible for bringing us a proper performance car with a manual gearbox. Did Munich think you were crazy to ask for an M car with a manual in India?
I think Munich thought that I'm listening to my customers. Every time I’ve attended M events in the past, I get requests saying, "When can we get a manual in India? When can we feel the real raw power of M?” So, I'm really proud that we brought in the M2, which is a pure 'M' car with a manual. Customers want a car that they can take to the track or out for an early morning spin, of course not to commute in on a daily basis. So, we’re not looking at big sales numbers, instead, what I'm looking at is the smile on the faces of these customers. The number of smiles equals the number of sales. You’ve driven it, and you would have smiled multiple times – and that's what I'm looking for!
Another car that’s a paradigm shift is the new BMW i7.
When we launched the 7 Series and the i7 in February 2023, we made a clear statement that we want to redefine the class of luxury. And already we have delivered more cars than we sold in the entire year of previous-generation 7 Series. I'm happy that we started a revolution in the luxury space, and I'll give you two fun facts about our performance across the price segments.
One is the luxury class, which includes the 7, i7, X7 and the XM, which contributed to 20% of our sales in the first half of 2023, and this segment grew by 128% Year-on-Year. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the X1, where we’ve seen a growth of 50% in this segment. For us, the X1 alone has contributed to 20% of our sales in the first half, with two-thirds of these customers being first-time premium buyers. And 56% of these customers are between the ages of 31 and 45. So, really excited about how these two ends of the spectrum are growing. And in the middle sits the 3 GL, which accounts for 20% of our sales. And now, we’ve just launched the X5 – so we have four strong pillars.
In the luxury class, at the top end, if you didn’t have any ICE offerings and offered only EVs would your customers even notice – meaning is it just early adopters who are opting for EVs, or has the market evolved such that this is what your customers actually want today?
I think there are individual customers who like EVs and individual customers who will continue with ICE. That's why our strategy is very clear. We will give this power of choice to the customer. We will not decide for them.
As far as EVs go, we are the only automaker offering four distinctive products – the Mini electric hatch, i4 mid-size electric sedan, the iX electric SUV – and the i7, which is a limousine in electric. In the first half of this year, we own 50% of the premium electric space. If I look at the iX, it alone outsells all the other electric premium cars combined. This is the fastest-growing segment for us actually at the moment.
Are there plans to manufacture EVs in India?
Absolutely. 95% of what we sell in India, we locally manufacture. EV is still a relatively new technology. The battery and motor technology are evolving very fast. We started with the i3 in 2013, so we are already on Gen 5 of our battery technology and are working on Gen 6. So, I think we need to find a sweet spot before we localize. When we find the technology is stable, the volumes are reaching the threshold, you'll see us producing here. It's only a matter of time.
It's been a busy year already, but what else is coming up from BMW?
When we started this year, we said we would launch 19 cars and 3 bikes, so over 22 products across our three brands. The BMW X5 is our 12th car launch this year. We've already launched two bikes, so there are still seven more cars to come and one more bike, and maybe some surprises in there as well – so just watch the space for the next six months...