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New York 2012: A Conversation With BMW’s Big Thinker

Dr. Ian Robertson — Member of the Board of Management, BMW AG – is the man grappling with the Big Issues that will face BMW as an automaker in the near and distant future. He’s concerned with immediate matters for BMW AG, of course, such as sales. [He thinks that total U.S. market sales might exceed the current estimates of 13.5 or 13.7 million units in calendar 2012.] He also clearly spends a lot of time peering into his crystal ball and trying to maneuver BMW AG to be in the best possible position in terms of products and profits in our uncertain world.

The big news for BMW at the New York show is, of course, the introduction of its X1 small crossover SUV. Robertson reminds us that the X5 entered this segment for BMW only ten short years ago and has, as we know, done extraordinarily well both in sales and in its position in the SUV hierarchy. He expects no less from the X1, which took so long to reach America simply due to a lack of production capacity. BMW recently opened a second plant in China to meet huge demand for the X1 there, which freed up enough capacity at its plant in Leipzig, Germany, to build the X1 for us. It goes on sale this fall starting at $31,545.

On the subject of China, Robertson tells us that BMW is going gangbusters there. “We’re opening a new dealership every single week in China,” he says, with some wonderment. “This requires a huge investment in real estate and buildings, but more important, in people. The dealer infrastructure doesn’t exist in China. They haven’t got decades of car industry experience. We are expanding as rapidly as may be possible. Also, we’re seeing customers who’ve never had a luxury vehicle before.”


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