Vincent Salimon (BMW): “Don’t limit yourself to electric motorization”

The BMW Group has 12 factories in Europe, 1,000 employees in France and net income has tripled in 2021 compared to 2020. Vincent Salimon, Chairman of the Board of Management of the BMW Group in France, comments on the manufacturer’s move to “zero CO2”.

2035 should mark the end of thermal car sales in Europe, is that reasonable?

The position of all manufacturers is, above all, whether the environment will be ready. I have no doubts for BMW, the group has been selling 100% electric cars for ten years, since the launch of the BMW i3 in 2013. By 2023, 90% of the segments in which we are positioned will have a 100% electric vehicle. Today in France, a third of the BMW volume, like the Mini volume, is rechargeable hybrid or 100% electric. We will be ready in 2035 because we are ready.

On the other hand, will the infrastructure measure up to this? To meet the demand, 1 million charging stations are needed in France by 2030. The target at the end of 2021 was 100,000, we are at 60,000. Second booking point, by announcing today that sales will be 100% electric in 2035, Brussels is disrupting the market. Many people are asking themselves the question of renewing their car. The wait-and-see attitude weighs heavily on the average age of the car fleet (11 years in France and Europe), which is already aging six months a year. If we do not renew old thermal vehicles, we will not reduce CO2 emissions. This is the opposite of the intended goal. Finally, if we talk about pollution, we must not limit ourselves to use.

“If we don’t renew old thermal vehicles, we won’t reduce CO2 emissions”

Is that to say ?

We want to impose 100% electric only on registrations. We say that we must also reduce emissions throughout the value chain, from resource extraction to battery recycling and production. By this summer, the planet will have used up all the resources the Earth can regenerate in a year! The circular economy cannot be an empty word: today, 30% of the materials used for the production of our vehicles worldwide are recycled materials. 50% of the aluminum and 30% of the nickel used in our batteries is recycled. In our latest generation of electric motors, there are no rare earths. At the last Munich Motor Show, we also presented a 100% recycled and 100% recyclable BMW, the BMW i Vision Circular. It is slated to be produced around 2040, but the concept already exists. For all these reasons, we are asking for an overall assessment in 2030 to see if Europe is on the right track. And we recommend not limiting yourself to use.

Would you say like Carlos Tavares (Stelantis) that electrification is the technology chosen by politicians, not by industry?

The electric car does not meet 100% of users’ needs, knowing that in France, 87% of drivers say they use their vehicle almost daily. For them, the issue of charging infrastructure is a brake. Today, therefore, it is more useful to develop rechargeable hybrid engines, which also contribute to reducing emissions. At the same time, we are investing in hydrogen to offer greater autonomy to large vehicles. A fleet of SUVs for the group’s internal use will be available this year, with the aim of commercializing vehicles by the end of the decade. Responding to needs means not being limited to electric motorization alone.

For BMW, is this transition made without many adjustments and job cuts?

Our first electric vehicle was launched in 1972 when the Munich Olympics opened, and we opened a sustainable development department in 1973. We were not surprised! Through training, we are constantly adapting and retaining our talents, this also applies to the network. Since the launch of the BMW i3 in 2013, we have organized 23,000 days of training in France.

Is the self-driving car the future of the automobile?

Today we talk about driving assistance, and yes, it offers a lot of comfort! Our cars already park and reverse on their own, thanks to a system that memorizes the last 50 meters travelled. In a traffic jam, you can let go of the steering wheel for several minutes, even if the car is moving forward. On the highway, it takes about thirty seconds, the maximum currently allowed by law. Every year, we invest between 6 and 7 billion euros, or around 6 to 7% of the group’s turnover, in new technologies and in the transformation of our vehicles, which allows us to be a leader in the high-end segment.

Manufacturers made considerable profits last year in a difficult environment. How to explain the 12.5 billion euros of historic net profit for BMW?

Pandemic and supply issues allowed us to rethink our organization. An example: in France, 90% of our sales today are made to individuals and companies, 10% are dedicated to short-term rental companies, demonstration vehicles, etc. . Concentrating on the final customer makes it possible to favor the most virtuous and profitable segments, which changes a lot.

For 2022, the group’s automotive division aims at an operating margin between 7 and 9% [contre 10,3% en 2021]. Last year, our number one market, China – around 850,000 cars sold – was the fastest growing this year. Registrations also increased in Europe (about 950,000 registrations) and the United States (about 450,000 sales). Our particularity is being the first exporter in value in the American automobile industry, thanks to our Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, which becomes the group’s largest production site.

How do you deal with scarcity of all kinds?

We try to buy raw materials from our suppliers. For cobalt, we have a ten-year contract with Australia, which guarantees volume and respect for human rights in extraction. Another response was to simplify our vehicle options to limit our semiconductor needs. For example, installing a standard GPS (and no longer offering the GPS pro option) on Series 1, our compact model.

What do you think of Tesla’s cheeky health and its 19% operating margin in the first half?

Competition drives us. BMW brings to its side 106 years of industrial history, its technology, the quality and regularity of its production. Starting in 2023, we will offer 13 100% electric models. In November, we will market the world’s only 100% electric luxury sedan, the BMW i7, with a 32-inch cinema screen in the rear. At the other end of the spectrum, in March we launched a new electric scooter. Between the two, we cater to everyone’s needs.

“We buy €3.5 billion a year of supplies from equipment manufacturers based in France”

BMW has 12 production sites in Europe, none in France. Is it a matter of competitiveness?

This is a historic decision, linked to the group’s global choice to properly distribute its global investments. This does not prevent the BMW Group from having a very strong industrial presence in the country with, in particular, two logistics centers for the delivery of spare parts and accessories. The one in Strasbourg serves half of France, the entire Swiss market and part of the German market. Our test, research/development center based in Miramas, near Marseille, is the largest of the bunch, sometimes with over 500 engineers on site. We built a special track there to develop autonomous driving. We also buy €3.5 billion a year of supplies from equipment manufacturers based in France. And we recently invested 100 million euros in our headquarters in Saint Quentin en Yvelines.

Is the future BMW in the metaverse?

In 2025, we will open a new factory in Debrecen, Hungary, which will not emit CO2. It is already spinning in the metaverse, allowing us to fine-tune our plans to optimize production cycles and quality. Digital grinding is cheaper than in reality…

a homemade product

Vincent Salimon has been Chairman of the Board of Directors of BMV Group France since 2017. This former high-level athlete, a member of the French swimming team from 1981 to 1988, began his career as a consultant at MediaPerformances and Price Waterhouse. He then held various positions with the BMW Group internationally, particularly in Norway, where he managed the subsidiary before returning to France. From 2014 to 2017, he was director of the Mini France brand.

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