This morning’s BMW press conference - right next door to the Department for Transport - revealed something rather more important than the make-up of the 2012 Olympic vehicle fleet.
A sneak preview of a new folding electrically-assisted Pedelec pedal bike and a spy shot of the upcoming BMW electric scooter showed just how quickly BMW is transforming itself from a company that builds premium cars to a company that wants to be in the business of virtually all kinds of wheeled transport.
By the end of next year BMW will be in the business of supplying everything from bicycles (it already sells 37,000 pedal bikes each year through its dealer network) to a Rolls Royce Phantom. In between those extremes will be everything from a super-frugal three-cylinder Mini to a high-performance motorcycle to a premium-priced carbon-bodied battery powered car.
BMW is also determined to be involved in the information exchange that will be needed for traveling across the Mega cities in which the majority of the world’s population will soon be living. So it also announced this morning that it had invested in an online company called ParkatmyHouse - which uses the web to allow householders to sell their spare parking spaces online, via a Smart phone app.
While sticking firmly to its premium positioning, BMW has set a new strategic course that will see it start to compete in the booming market for Scooters in India and China. Megacities will probably mean mega-jams, but BMW is sure that the human urge for personal mobility will not die.
It’s also worth noting that the youth of Asia (and the debt-laden youth of the West) will probably not be in the new car market until they are in middle age, so BMW wants to build brand loyalty as soon as they become road users.
Like most carmakers, BMW is now having to sell into a fast-changing global market and one that is becoming dominated by people who will never afford a BMW 5-series.
As Jaguar bosses told me a couple of weeks ago, taking the new car market as global whole, anything that costs over £15,000 should be categorised as a ‘premium’ car because 90 per cent of the world car sales are cheaper than that figure. It’s a statistic that shows why premium bicycles and scooters are now such an important part of BMW’s future.