BMW Acknowledges It Is 'The Ultimate Driving Machine' No Longer, Holds Rallies to Scare Employees
As vehicle sales growth gradually cools off, BMW has found itself continuing to lose ground to its competitors — but it wasn’t always this way. The company spent years as the luxury brand par excellence before seeing the likes of Jaguar, Tesla, and historic rival Mercedes-Benz begin syphoning off its consumer base.
It looked to be in denial for some time, but it is now evident that Bayerische Motoren Werke has become painfully aware of its own shortcomings. The company has even begun holding employee rallies to address its problems and potentially scare the crap out of workers. Since January, the German automaker has taken its marketing team, factory managers, 14,000 engineers, and a portion of its general workforce through day-long events that illustrate just how far it has fallen.
Attending one of the rallies, Bloomberg highlighted just how consequential the rhetoric used was. “We’re in the midst of an electric assault,” said one of the event’s presenters amidst a slideshow of BMW’s rivals. “This must be taken very seriously.”
The point, it seems, is to instill fear in the company’s employees while inspiring ways to cope with the fast-changing automotive landscape. BMW isn’t in the doghouse yet and still knows how to turn a profit, but has also become keenly aware of the turning technological tide. No automaker wants to be left behind, especially not one that spent so many years on top.
The rallies aren’t solely used for intimidation, however. The employees are also placed into workshops where they can discuss emerging technologies like car-sharing, battery implementation, and autonomous technologies — basically, everything currently hyped as “the next big thing.” BMW gives them the opportunity to closely examine concept vehicles that make use of unusual features. While some of these are difficult to imagine in the real world — like a Mini that changes colors to match the drivers current mood — others offer unique solutions to more practical problems. But the point isn’t to be realistic, it’s to get to get employees coming up with their own ideas and providing a starting point for collaboration.
“It’s easy to fall into a closed way of thinking,” says Jutta Schwerdtle, a session leader who works in BMW’s market research. “This helps push people out of that.”
Fresh ideas are something the automaker is in desperate need of, too. BMW has wasted years chasing sales, instead of continuing the tradition of raising the automotive bar. It has also lost some of its best designers and most of its innovative engineers after sitting on its laurels for so long. Roughly a year ago, the brand’s core development team for the i3 and i8 electric vehicle lineup left the company for Future Mobility Corp, a Chinese startup backed by Tencent Holdings.
When your best abandon you for a Chinese automotive startup, you realize something must be terribly, terribly wrong.
“BMW has lost its leadership in innovation,” explained Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt. “It’s not brave enough to get into pioneering projects and do something really new.”
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