Pieter Nota, Board Member Sales and Brand BMW, Aftersales BMW Group, has a clear vision for the future. For him it is all about customers and the new opportunities created by digitalisation. BMW Group is working towards a digital, emotional and electrified future of individual mobility. We spoke with Pieter Nota about how a consistent strategy, strong customer benefits and a focus on both fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are important for the future.
Mr Nota, you and your family have been living in Munich for over a year. What do you like best about being here?
Pieter Nota: Although I’m Dutch, I love the mountains, and I’m really enjoying living so close to the Alps. We used to have to travel much further for skiing, but now the snow is right outside our front door in the winter, and the children love it. It’s completely new to them.
The automotive industry is in the midst of a transformation, and market conditions are challenging. How is BMW going to stand out from the competition in future?
Pieter Nota: There are two important aspects here. The first is to achieve a sharper presentation of our brand, which is already very strong. That was one of our focus topics last year. Our brand embodies joy, and joy is highly emotional, universal and timeless. But just as the world around us is changing, so too is the joy of Sheer Driving Pleasure. It’s expanding to encompass the Sheer Pleasure of individual mobility. Amid all the massive changes in our industry at the moment, this is a point where I see a key role for us. At the same time, we must stand out from the competition more. That’s why we have honed the profile of our brand even further and given our brand values an even stronger focus. In addition, we must concentrate our attention on our customers and raise customer-centricity to a new level. Digitalisation is opening up new possibilities for us to do exactly that.
Can you give us an example?
Pieter Nota: Our overall goal is to maintain a constant digital relationship with the customer. In the past, we would sell a car to a customer and, apart from a few aftersales services, that would be the end of it until they came back to buy their next one. We want to get away from this kind of individual transaction and build lasting relationships. That’s why we now maintain our customer relationships by digital means. When customers lease or purchase one of our vehicles, we consciously shape the dialogue we have with them and then sustain it over time. Together with Peter Schwarzenbauer and his team, we are delivering an ecosystem that will offer our customers a seamless experience of our full products and service range – while maintaining their own individual customer identity.
How do our customers stand to benefit?
Pieter Nota: They won’t need to explain what they already have or already know each time we meet them. We’ll be aware of that in advance, and so we’ll be able to continue the interaction in a seamless way. That will be very convenient for our customers, but it will also give us a clearer picture of which of our offerings will best suit them. We can also relay what we know back to our colleagues in Design and Development, because Sales and Marketing is the voice of the customer within the company. If we make clever use together of the data we have within our organisation, we will benefit from the tremendous potential. Incidentally, the same is true of our cooperation with dealers.
Customer needs and demands are shifting to more sustainable mobility. How do you see this?
Pieter Nota: We are a future-oriented company and our long-term strategy is sustainable mobility. For decades, our focus has been on cleaner, more efficient technologies and addressing the challenges of growing urban centers. Modern society demands a responsible approach and our company’s success is built on our long-term commitment to taking such responsibility. Future-oriented companies challenge their own actions and they spearhead change. They implement innovations to the benefit of their customers, to improve their quality of life, and they prepare today to be competitive tomorrow. The BMW Group is a pioneer in electro-mobility and has been successfully on the market for more than five years, starting with the launch of the BMW i3. We are consistently continuing on this path.
Which highlights did BMW present at the Geneva International Motor Show?
Pieter Nota: We showcased new models in the luxury segment, such as the new BMW 7 Series, with a special focus on the new BMW 7 Series plug-in hybrid. This model is the perfect example that luxury and sustainability go hand in hand. Altogether, we presented four new plug-in hybrid models in Geneva: The BMW 3 and 7 Series, and the X3 and X5. Together with the 2 and 5 Series, they all represent our fourth generation of plug-in hybrids that have up to 80 kilometres fully-electric range. We are in the middle of the largest model offensive in the history of the BMW Group, with very attractive SUVs, where hybrids and e-mobility will play an important role. Take the BMW X3 xDrive30e - it is our very first BMW X3 offered as a plug-in hybrid. As we have already announced, next year we will launch the fully-electric BMW iX3. This means the BMW X3 will be the first BMW to be offered with three different powertrains. Highly efficient internal combustion, plug-in hybrid and fully electric. The BMW X3 is one of our best-selling models worldwide and customers will be able to choose the drive train technology that best suits their needs. This is what I call a true customer-centric approach!
Does anyone really need a plug-in hybrid? Why don’t you just focus on fully-electric cars?
Pieter Nota: We focus on both fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to suit various customer needs. There is no single solution that works for all customers. Plug-in hybrids are the perfect solution for people who drive shorter distances with zero local emissions during the week and want to have ease of mind for longer trips on the weekend, without having to recharge. Hybrids deliver a very real and positive contribution to lowering emissions. They provide a way to quickly improve air quality in urban areas. A study by the renowned German Fraunhofer Institute shows that hybrids with a minimum range of 60 kilometres are driven in electric mode just as often as pure battery-electric vehicles. In other words, their potential for CO2 reduction is just as high. Hybrid technology definitely has its place. We now offer customers a plug-in hybrid in every segment. With the expansion of our plug-in hybrids, we are making a clear statement about the importance of this technology alongside fully-electric cars.
How does the “electrification strategy” look at the BMW Group?
Pieter Nota: Our future is definitely electric. We invested in electro-mobility early on and are in a good position – we aim to have at least 500,000 electrified vehicles on the roads worldwide by the end of this year. We are currently the market leader in Europe for fully-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. By the year 2025, we will have more than 25 electrified models in our range, including twelve fully-electric. This year, we are really picking up the pace with the MINI Electric. And for BMW, next year the iX3, then the i4 in 2021, as well as our new innovation leader, the iNEXT. We are enabling our plants worldwide to build all types of drive trains on the same assembly line. Diversity and flexibility are key. Not only that, we have been doing huge amounts of R&D in battery technology for over a decade. Now we are strengthening our competence and pooling all our know-how at our new battery competence centre in Munich, which will open in summer. Charging is also a key aspect of e-mobility and we are involved in many efforts to achieve a good charging infrastructure, such as IONITY and CHARGE NOW, which is one of the world’s fastest growing public charging networks.
In a nutshell, what makes an electrified vehicle from the BMW Group unique?
Pieter Nota: First of all, BMW has the strongest brand core – JOY – in the industry. With cars such as the BMW i8 Roadster, we have proven how emotional e-mobility can be. All of our electrified vehicles offer an unbeatable combination of: excellent technology, outstanding design, a focus on sustainability and a 360 degree approach. Mobility is our passion and every one of our vehicles offers the promise of an emotional and joyful driving experience. This makes us unique.