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Mr. Robertson, you are showing at the Geneva Motor Show the new 5 Series. What are the reactions to your new mid-range sedan?
Robertson: The incoming order for the new BMW 5-series sedan is excellent. We are already fully booked for the first three months, although our new limousine will only be on the market on March 20th.
How many units do you want to sell in a full year of production?
Robertson: Already from the last BMW 5er Sedan, we sold an average of almost 160,000 units a year. We want to exceed this value with the new model.
How is the 5 Series GT running? Almost 3,000 units in 2009 are not particularly sparkling. What do you expect in 2010?
Robertson: We are very satisfied with sales of the 5 Series GT - the car has only been on the market since the end of October last year. We also only started in important markets such as the USA or China in January. The response from customers to this vehicle has been extremely positive, so we will still have a lot of fun with the 5 Series GT.
How is the third brand new model, the X1, which has only been in the Trade and was sold 8,500 times last year?
Robertson: The interest in X1 has clearly exceeded even our high expectations. Here, too, we obviously brought the right vehicle onto the market at the right time. Orders for our new member of the X family have already been received by the end of May. Even though we haven't even launched the X1 in the US, where we see one of the core markets.
Is the US market recovering yet? And what trends are you observing in the other core markets?
Robertson: In the USA, our second largest market after Germany, we are seeing encouraging signs of recovery. We believe that the world's second largest auto market will grow to around 11.4 million sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in 2010. In the UK, our third largestSingle market, we see a clear recovery. Our currently largest market in the world, Germany, will probably decline significantly with the expiry of the scrapping premium. As a premium manufacturer that hardly benefited from the 2009 scrappage bonus, we will be significantly less affected than many volume manufacturers. The premium segment in Germany is likely to remain relatively stable with a total of 850,000 to 880,000 vehicles. For the German market as a whole, we forecast a decline to around 2.8 million new registrations in 2010. From a global perspective, we expect the BMW Group to see single-digit growth in automobile sales this year.
You haven't even mentioned the growth market of China.
Robertson: China continues to boom. This year the premium segment will possibly reach a size of around 500,000 units for the first time. In 2009 we have around 90,000 BMW and Mini in China sold. This year we want to break the 100,000 sales mark in China for the first time.
How will your total sales develop this year?
Robertson: In 2010 we want to sell over 1.3 million vehicles, worldwide leading premium manufacturers remain. In February we sold around 14 percent more vehicles. In addition to the gradual economic recovery, we will get a tailwind from our many new models. In 2012 we want about 1.6 million BMW, Mini and Sell Rolls Royce .
How far have negotiations with PSA about a closer cooperation progressed?
Robertson: Joint engine development and production for Mini is clearly the focus here. We are also reviewing other topics for cooperation.
Just as little as in the discussions with Mercedes ?
Robertson: We already have a joint purchase for some commodities. And we also look at which other, non-brand-differentiating components we could buy together. The problem is simply that components also have a life cycle of seven years. And when two corporations with different product lifecycles and brands meet, it simply takes a while to get bigger results. In addition, we will not do anything that forces us to compromise our brands. This is another reason why we have no further negotiations with Fiat tracked.
Change of subject: How do you reduce consumptionahead?
Robertson: Today, more than 1.6 million vehicles with Efficient Dynamics fuel-saving technology are already on the road. Others build economical special models - we have a highly efficient overall fleet. The average fleet consumption of the BMW Group in Europe is now just 5.9 liters per 100 kilometers. This corresponds to a CO2 value of 150 grams per kilometer. No other premium manufacturer does better and has reduced its CO2 emissions as strongly and consistently as the BMW Group. We are even below the values of some manufacturers who mainly produce small cars. And that with significantly more engine power and sportiness. Of course we are working on further solutions to reduce consumption. Since the end of last year we have also had the first two hybrid models in our model range - the BMW 7er and the BMW X6 Active Hybrid. More hybrid offers and a purely electric vehicle will follow by 2015 - with correspondingly further positive effects on our CO2 balance.
Will you also be giving the Rolls-Royce brand an electric motor?
Robertson: We are currently looking into that, because Rolls Royce customers expect the best or nothing - also when it comes to environmental compatibility.
When will there be a super sports car from BMW - analogous to the Audi R8 and Mercedes SLS AMG ?
Robertson: In Frankfurt, with the concept study BMW Vision EfficientDynamics, we have already shown how we could imagine such a car. The response was overwhelmingly positive. We're keeping this idea and the segment on the radar.
And at the other end of the model portfolio: What about an entry-level model below the 1 Series - analogous to the new Audi A1 , the Polo segment wants to stir up?
Robertson: We have been with Mini in the premium segment for years Small car segment very successful. So it stands to reason that others want to follow suit. But we also want to continue growing in this segment. We will expand the Mini brand as well as the BMW brand with new models and variants in the premium small car segment. We can also imagine developing a common architecture for front-wheel and all-wheel drive for these new vehicles. In addition, we are developing for this segment as part of our 'Project i'Megacity Vehicle - MCV for short - with electric drive, which will be on the market by 2015.
This brings us to perhaps the most exciting new model of the medium-term future that you are developing under the umbrella term project-i and off Want to produce in Leipzig in mid-2013. What should be so special about it?
Robertson: One thing first: I cannot confirm the mentioned production start in 2013. This first result of our future MCV family will set an example for change. Production will be different because electric propulsion and carbon fiber composites require different processes. But we will also see other approaches in sales and marketing.
Robertson: We are already learning from the first findings of our project i -Activities - the small series of the electric mini: For our more than 600 Mini E customers worldwide, a range of around 150 kilometers is sufficient. They notice that they don't need more than 400 kilometers in the city, as they are used to from an internal combustion engine. You realize that leasing can be more interesting than buying. Perhaps customers want to lease an electric BMW for 40 weeks a year and then a diesel or gasoline engine for another six weeks if they go on longer vacation trips? These are conceivable approaches for new leasing concepts. Such a car of the future will not only be sold differently, the service will also look different.
Robertson: Just because of its structural design and technical condition we will see different service characteristics. For example, an electric car does not have to stop at the dealer every fifteen to twenty thousand kilometers for an oil change. There will be other maintenance requirements and intervals for this - for example, if updates for the electronics are necessary. Apple, for example, showed everyone how to reinvent telephony with the i-phone and apps. At project i, we too are fundamentally new to what driving a car will look like in the future and how we can make our customers' lives even more pleasant and easier. And we're rethinking our service structures and looking for new, customer-oriented solutions that will also help our dealers and service partners with their business.
To what extent?
Robertson: For me, these include questions such as how dealers and service partners use their service capacity better - where possible, for example, overnight - or how they get vehicles to be serviced while customers are on vacation. Whether you really want to afford very large parking spaces with used cars in the best inner city location, or better to market them between, etc. As you can see, we use project i to generate innovations in products and in retail and to rethink processes. This also requires thinking outside the box and taking off blinders.
What do you think of the Car2Go concept of Smart ?
Robertson: An interesting approach, but the New York service provider zipcar has been doing this in a similar way for years - also with vehicles from the BMW and Mini model range. Using an i-phone app, the customer can track down the nearest Mini or BMW for a low basic fee and book it using the car sharing procedure. And this is often cheaper than a taxi.
Why do you need a service provider for this? Why don't you do it yourself?
Robertson: I n more and more megacities will demand such flexible solutions increase. In cities in particular, there are more and more customers who do not necessarily want to call their Mini or BMW their property. For these customers who sometimes need a large or a small vehicle, we can imagine offering significantly more flexible leasing contracts. This would enable us to tap additional sales potential. All of these are still mind games. In any case, one thing is certain: mobility needs will change. The industry will change significantly in this decade. And our company will not only be a premium manufacturer of vehicles, but also a solution provider for individual mobility of the future.