Conversation with BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer

By Jonathan Spira on 28 March 2014
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Dr. Norbert Reithofer at the announcement in Spartanburg

Dr. Norbert Reithofer at the announcement in Spartanburg

No Diesel Hybrid, But BMW ‘On the Right Track’ For Good Fuel Economy

SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA — On the eve of several major announcements at BMW’s factory in Spartanburg, The Diesel Driver sat down with BMW Board of Management Chairman Norbert Reithofer, who had previously served as president of BMW’s manufacturing operations here.

My question was simple, and followed a discussion of how the new X7 will fit into the range and confirmed plans to produce an X5 plug-in hybrid in Spartanburg.

“Dr. Reithofer, now that you have a wide variety of diesels available almost worldwide as well as the new plug-in hybrid i vehicles starting to come on line, what are your thoughts about the possibility of a hybrid or plug-in hybrid diesel?”

I’ll let Dr Reithofer take it from here.

“I would like to mention again that the i3 and i8 and x5 plugin hybrid are very important for us.  I was talking to a huge dealer at the Geneva Motor Show last month, and he said, ‘every i8 you can build, I will sell.’”

“I see your point, but a lot of vehicles are not in every market.  For example, the European market is dominated by the 1 Series and soon the 2 Series, as well as the 3er and 4er.  It’s 70 to 80% diesel with significantly less demand for six-cylinder engines and more and more four cylinders.”

“In big cities, how we see the market is this: our i product, which we think we can sell to customers.”

“To return to your question, at the moment we are going for the plug-in hybrid petrol, not diesel.”

Reithofer indicated, however, that the future may be full of surprises.

“In the past, it was not possible, in BMW’s view, to build an X5 with a four-cylinder diesel engine.  In the past few years, a lot of customers have said ‘we want an X5 with a four-cylinder diesel engine’ and we are listening to them.”

“We think we need an X5 plug-in hybrid and it’s  a really good car from a fuel economy standpoint . We believe we are on the right track from a fuel economy point of view.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)