Peter van Binsbergen gives a glimpse into BMW’s future plans

10 June 2024 - 13:07
By Phuti Mpyane
BMW SA group CEO Peter van Binsbergen.
Image: Supplied BMW SA group CEO Peter van Binsbergen.

BMW SA cleaned up at the recent Old Mutual Insure South African Car of the Year (Coty) awards ceremony in Johannesburg on May 8.

The BMW X1, M2 and 7 Series models won the family, performance and luxury car categories respectively, and the BMW 7 Series was also crowned the overall winner of the 2024 Car of the Year title.

I spoke to Peter van Binsbergen, CEO of BMW group SA, to discuss the wins and other matters pertaining to the brand. 

Was he expecting as many BMW products to win, especially the 7 Series driving away with the main title? The CEO said: “No. We had high hopes for the BMW X1, which is a sales success for us in this market and a model that has already been widely awarded in South Africa, but we entered strong products and are thrilled by the overwhelming acceptance of all our entrants.

“The BMW 7 Series win was an absolute — albeit delightful — surprise and a wonderful endorsement for the limousine segment,” he said.

He acknowledged the 7 Series’ win did not please everyone, with some corners expressing the view that as an expensive and niche vehicle it did not represent the South African market ideals. 

Van Binsbergen conceded the BMW 7 Series was a niche vehicle for a particular and discerning customer who viewed personal mobility as a way to experience moments in their daily lives and as the 7 Series was a pinnacle of personal mobility that consistently outsold rivals, the CEO said the title fitted the car.

The BMW 7 Series is South Africa’s 2024 Car of the Year.
Image: Supplied The BMW 7 Series is South Africa’s 2024 Car of the Year.

In March the company started marketing the new BMW 5 Series locally in diesel and full electric i5 guise, minus the more popular petrol models. The company head said they wanted to give customers the opportunity to experience these and despite a seemingly restricted line-up the 5 Series had been well received as first quarter results show it outsold competitors in that segment.

He added his company listened to its customers and retailers and would respond to demand for additional drivetrains should the volume support their introduction.

BMW global chair Oliver Zipse recently remarked: “Demand for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) will continue to climb — though not in a linear fashion; it will be dynamic and market specific.”

Van Binsbergen said at year to date in March, the total BEV market had increased by 15% in South Africa, in which the BMW group remained the leader with a 64.2% premium segment share, despite the perceived challenges of energy insecurity and range anxiety.

Global markets are abuzz with the apparently slowing demand for EVs. To the question of how this will affect BMW SA’s investment of R4.2bn to electrify its Rosslyn plans as well as plans to produce the BMW X3 as a plug-in hybrid for export, Van Binsbergen replied that adopting a technology-open approach enabled its plants to produce different drive variants flexibly in line with customer demand.

“The decision to electrify the BMW group Plant Rosslyn to allow it to build the new BMW X3 as a plug-in hybrid model was taken as a deliberate step to future-proof this production facility in the global BMW production network.”

He added the modular production technique, which allows multiple models and drivetrains to be built on a single production line, meant the Rosslyn plant in Pretoria would potentially be able to produce a range of electrified and internal combustion engine vehicles on a single line.

With many markets experiencing a resurgence in demand for plug-in hybrids, it bodes well for the new BMW X3 hybrid model and their Rosslyn plant, as it would produce it exclusively in South Africa for the world.

What of the Neue Klasse models competing in high-volume segments as mentioned by global chair Zipse and what is the great divide between them and existing and full electric BMW i offerings such as the iX3?

The BMW Neue Klasse is a new range of electric cars the company plans to launch.
Image: Supplied The BMW Neue Klasse is a new range of electric cars the company plans to launch.

He said the BMW group believed the Neue Klasse vehicles had the potential to further accelerate the market penetration of e-mobility. Depending on the social acceptance of e-mobility and customer demand for fully electric vehicles, they could account for 50% of the company’s global sales by 2030.

“The Neue Klasse will start out in the high-volume core of the BMW brand with a Sports Activity Vehicle and a sedan in today’s 3 Series segment.

“In total, production of at least six models is set to get under way within the next 24 months, and South African customers have full access to the BMW group model offerings, including the Neue Klasse,” Van Binsbergen said. .