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BMW still vying for green transport support

Say i: With its new 3 Series and X5 PHEV models, BMW has doubled its i-brand line-up, but says it will take more than just a broad range of vehicles for the Australian public to get involved.

i-brand cars to grow in Australia but government support will be the catalyst: BMW

22 Feb 2016

BMW is confident that the uptake and interest in its range of i-branded vehicles will continue to grow alongside the expanding line-up of plug-in hybrids, but says a marked increase will not happen until the government introduces ownership incentives.

Until earlier this month, BMW's local hybrid range extended to the low-volume i3 and i8 models and the now-discontinued 7 Series and 3 Series ActiveHybrid, but with the recent addition of the 330e and X5 xDrive40e, the car-maker is building an alternative energy assault.

Accompanying the new models is a new strategy to attract potential customers to the i-brand including an expanding dealer network and more PHEVs on the way, but BMW wants the government to do its part to encourage Australians into greener cars.

Speaking at the media presentation of the M6 GT3 race-car, BMW Group Australia CEO Marc Werner explained the company's commitment to alternative energy, but said a vote of confidence in the form of new legislation would be the tipping point for hybrids and electric vehicles in Australia.

“At the moment we have six exclusive BMW i-dealers and we want to more than double that within the next six months,” he said.

“That's a very clear strategy going forward but it's not only that, we are pushing the dealer network extension, but we are also having intensive discussions with the Australian government about how to bring incentives as well as new legislation into this country.”

With the blossoming i-brand range, Mr Werner said he believes the success of all hybrid and electric vehicles relied on a combination of good product choice and ease of ownership, comparing Australia's commitment to the most enthusiastic nations.

“If I draw a parallel to other markets, be it Norway, California or even the Netherlands or Switzerland, it's a really sustainable demand. In particular in Europe where they are going to 99g in CO2 emissions by 2020, we see an increase in demand on BMW i3, which is fantastic.

“I think we have the best and most sustainable set up when it comes to our products.

“What we have seen in other markets, and I think this will come to Australia sooner or later is that, the minute there are incentives from the government, we will attract further customers – additional.”

BMW Group Australia corporate communications general manager Lenore Fletcher repeated Mr Werner's insight into overseas markets, referring to research that identifies buyer behaviour when offered incentives.

“We've actually got some new research that's coming in, which says that if you have incentives, the corresponding rise in sales is astonishing. The corresponding lowering of emissions is also right there,” she said.

Ms Fletcher explained that while BMW was prepared to engage the government and champion the cause, other brands would be willing to build pressure for a legislation review and bring Australia up to the 21st century.

“A really good place to start is the FCAI because that is the industry body, nonetheless, there are certainly many manufacturers who feel just as passionately as we do about some sort of reform here in Australia. There will be no shortage of people willing to discuss that in detail.

“Australia is really behind the rest of the world. There's been no agreed targets, no action on it, no planning or thought abut it and that's what we are trying to get to happen now.”

Mr Werner said that there was certainly a demand for alternative energy and PHEVs and interested parties were not simply existing BMW owners, but informed people with specific requirements.

“What we see from the customers that are buying BMW i-cars, they are usually new to the brand, they are tech savvy not necessarily environmentalists and they have clear understanding of what a sustainable lifestyle should be all about,” he said.

“It's coming from two angles. On the one side you have customers who want to have that technology. We see a lot of those customers. At the same time we also know from the legislation point of view that there will be changes – there have to be changes.

“This is definitely a trend that we have not seen in Australia before. Slowly but surely it's coming.”

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