German manufacturer BMW says it needs to reinvent itself and make cars relevant again to a new generation of buyers as the world moves towards electrification and its existing customer base dissipates.
Speaking to Australian media at the launch of the Neue Klasse concept in Munich this week, BMW design head Domagoj Dukec said that given the average age of BMW drivers, it needs to look towards the younger generation to stay relevant.
“BMW is an old player, 100-year-old, so our customers are old generation, they know cars, they were driving cars their whole life, our average customer age is between 55-60,” he said.
“People who buy the same car again, they don’t want the world to be changing too fast. So if you want to stay relevant, you have to look at what is coming in terms of Gen X and Alpha.”
According to Dukec, the younger generation no longer has as big an aspiration to own a car as before, preferring to spend their money on other things.
“If you ask them, they will say cars for me have no relevance, I want to travel, learn languages… so the car that was previously number one achievement [for younger buyers] is now ranking 20, you have to make car again relevant again,” he said.
The unveiling of the new BMW design language as part of the Neue Klasse concept is aimed directly at getting a newer audience to engage with the brand. Failure to make BMW aspirational to the younger generation will see BMW suffer a gradual decline given its current customer base, Dukec believes.
“Your classic customers will die out, and you can’t just, like Kodak, make the same recipe again and again… so, of course, the step now what we are making to lead the tour because at BMW we don’t want to just look the same as others, like at the Chinese and everybody is doing fluid lines, so maybe we should do this?” he said.
“If we do this, we will always lose.”
The Neue Klasse’s design language will go into production, first as an SUV in 2025, before other body types are set to follow. Apart from resetting the brand’s design language, it also brings a holistic change as to how BMW builds, engineers and maintains cars in the future.
“We reinvent the brand BMW, in every turn, how are we going to sell cars, produce them, interact with them, how long will be the lifetime of the car, extending it, making it more relevant because the whole story will be is so important so BMW can survive, he said.
“It’s not just pleasing customers, it’s also pleasing society.”
Another element that will stay part of BMW’s DNA going forward is the continuing production of certain models in Germany. While BMW sources cars for Australia from South Africa and China as well, production in Munich will continue for the foreseeable future.
“We produce in Germany, still in Munich, this for us is imperative. But it is four times more expensive than if we go somewhere else, but we do this because there is a meaning here, it has a value, but you have to prioritise what is important, change certain things and stay relevant in the future and this is everything that is Neue Klasse,” he said.
The Neue Klasse concept may look like a far-fetched design study, but according to Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, it is all but ready to go as a production car.
“I can promise you that the Vision Neue Klasse is close to standard production and will be on the roads soon,” said Zipse.
Australia should expect the first of the Neue Klasse models to arrive toward the middle or end of 2025.