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BMW has a new CEO, but the same old approach to electric cars

Oliver Zipse is set to take over as BMW CEO next month, and while his predecessor drew criticism for overseeing a slow transition to electric cars, new comments from Zipse make it sound like the automaker is staying the course.

When BMW CEO Harald Kreuger announced a few weeks ago that he wouldn’t be renewing his contract, some claimed his departure had a lot to do with how the company fell behind on electric cars. A report from Bloomberg noted that under Kreuger’s leadership, BMW squandered its head start in electric cars with the i3.

BMW’s director of development, Klaus Fröhlich, who recently said that he saw no demand for all-electric vehicles, was believed to be in the mix for the CEO position, but Zipse won out.

The belief was that Zipse would be a good bet for the company’s move into the future, especially in EVs. A recent Reuters report noted that “BMW hopes the 55-year-old can help the company regain its edge in electric cars.”

But new comments from Zipse only point to a continuation of BMW’s current approach. As Automotive News Europe reports, BMW will continue to create vehicle platforms that can be used for both electric and ICE cars. “Flexibility is key,” Zipse said. He continued:

If we predict the success of 3 series, we can be pretty much spot on. To predict electromobility is much more difficult. If you are not flexible either way, it’s very difficult for you to succeed in the market. Succeeding is staying profitable.

BMW recently announced plans to accelerate its electric car plans and introduce 25 electrified models by 2025. The company also just today unveiled the new steering wheel in its upcoming iNEXT electric car (in 2021).

One BMW Group brand that makes a lot of sense for an all-electric direction is Mini, which just unveiled its underwhelming new electric Mini Cooper SE.

But a separate report from Automotive News Europe today seems to lay out the same plan for Mini, noting that internal combustion engines would still be a part of the Mini brand. Mini also looks to introduce crossover vehicles.

BMW Group has no plans to electrify the current generation of Minis, though Elena Eder, product development chief for Mini’s electric program, told the publication, “For the next generation, we might still have surprises for you.”

Electrek’s Take

When we got a look at BMW’s new electric powertrain tech last year, we thought BMW’s EV approach to be flexible, yet conservative. And that hasn’t changed.

They are protecting their gas-powered car business by making EVs on the same platform and not producing a dedicated platform without knowing the demand for it.

So while we’re not terribly surprised by this, anyone who was hoping for the new CEO to allude to some big shake-up with BMW’s plans for future EVs is sure to be let down by these recent comments.

It’s also amusing that the headline for that story notes that Zipse “offers BMW a bold way forward.” Because this just sounds like more of the same.

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Phil Dzikiy is an Editor/Writer with Electrek/9to5Mac. Tips: