In a bold move, BMW is turning back to its historic “Neue Klasse” brand, this time for an electric vehicle (EV), aiming to compete head-to-head with industry leader Tesla. Back in the early 1960s, BMW was grappling with an uncertain future, overshadowed by the giants of Detroit, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz. It was during this period that BMW introduced the “Neue Klasse,” starting with the BMW 1800 in 1962. This new class of cars set BMW on a trajectory to become “the ultimate driving machine” company and one of the most successful brands globally.
The New “Neue Klasse” EV Prototype
Fast forward to today, and BMW is at a crossroads once again. The German automaker is unveiling a prototype EV, roughly the size of its current 3-series, under the “Neue Klasse” brand. This prototype was showcased at the Munich autoshow and boasts futuristic features like panoramic “head-up” displays on the windshield while retaining iconic BMW design elements. The objective is clear: to modernize and redefine BMW’s vehicle generation to stay competitive in the EV market, especially against newcomers like Tesla.
A Lag in EV Technology
Despite being an early adopter of EV technology with the launch of the i3 compact in 2013, BMW lags behind Tesla both in terms of technology and market share. The “Neue Klasse” represents a multi-billion-euro investment to bridge this technology gap. BMW plans to commence assembly of these vehicles in 2025.
A Competitive Edge in Battery Technology
The BMW “Neue Klasse” aims to outperform Tesla in battery technology by reducing battery pack costs by 50% and increasing range efficiency by 25%. To support these ambitious goals, BMW is making substantial investments in new battery-making and assembly operations at a Hungarian plant.
Adapting to a Shifting Business Model
Beyond technological challenges, BMW faces the changing business dynamics of the EV market. Tesla, for instance, sells directly to customers, deploys over-the-air software updates, and collects vehicle data for continuous improvement. BMW must adapt to these changes while undergoing a massive overhaul of its manufacturing processes.
Competing with a Dominant Tesla
The EV market has evolved significantly since BMW’s initial foray into electric vehicles, with Tesla establishing dominance. BMW’s “Neue Klasse” is a determined effort to reposition itself as a leader in the electric vehicle market and compete effectively with the transformative technologies pioneered by Tesla and other EV startups.
BMW is, in essence, revisiting its past success with the “Neue Klasse” to power its future in the electric vehicle arena, and the automotive world will be watching closely to see if history can repeat itself.