Why BMW EVs, gas cars sharing same platform is the 'right solution' for customers

German luxury brand BMW announced full-year 2023 results Thursday, highlighted by global deliveries climbing 6.4% to 2.554 million units. BMW’s global revenue jumped 9% to 155.5 billion euros, with automotive EBIT margin climbing to 9.8%. In addition, BMW said EV sales jumped 74.2% to 375,000 units globally.

BMW’s success with EVs, which comes amid weakening demand in the sector, could be a result of its two-pronged EV strategy, Frank Weber, the company's global chief technology officer and board member, told Yahoo Finance at a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

BMW has been releasing vehicles — for example, the new 7-series — in both traditional gas-powered and EV form, with both vehicles looking identical. Most other automakers' EVs appear starkly different from their gas-powered brethren, with companies basically offering different product lines.

“When I am visiting our dealerships, I am asking them, ‘Is it an advantage or a disadvantage that we are offering the same vehicles with all different [gas-powered and electric] powertrains?’” he said.

“And for us, it is really key that you find the right solution for the individual person, and I think what has helped ... [is] that we are very clear in our structure [in] that we say a 7-series is a 7-series, a 5-series is a 5-series,” Weber said.

Weber says this structure helps customers select the car that best suits their needs. He used an example of a European customer who thinks he needs a BEV (battery electric vehicle), but ends up buying a diesel-powered car because it fills his needs better, perhaps because he needs more range or lacks access to charges.

That diversity in its powertrain options is likely helping fuel early BEV success in 2024. In the first two months of the year, BMW reported BEV sales jumped by a “significant double-digit percentage” compared to the same period of last year. Growth was disproportionately strong in the US, where the company's BEV sales almost doubled by the end of February compared to last year. Sales growth in Europe and China for BEV models also posted “significant double-digit growth,” BMW said.

Weber also touted the company's success with plug-in hybrids, yet another powertrain option available to its customers. Weber said BMW was No. 1 in plug-in hybrid sales in the premium segment, with approximately 1.1 million units sold globally. Separately, the BMW X5 xDrive50e Plug-In Hybrid SUV was named a Consumer Reports top choice in the US.

A vision of BMW's electric SUV future

BMW also unveiled a glimpse of the electric future of its SUVs Thursday, with the BMW Vision Neue Klasse X. The concept, which will closely resemble an actual model that comes out in the second half of next year, is based on BMW’s bespoke EV platform dubbed Neue Klasse, which would be a split from its current dual-platform strategy.

Despite this new class of EVs being on a separate platform, technology products like infotainment and electronics will still be shared across EV and gas-powered vehicles, as it keeps costs lower and maintains product consistency. Weber acknowledged this is easier done with brands like BMW where mass-market sales volume isn’t a concern.

Despite a cooling off of EV sales in the overall market, Weber is still among those who believe the EV transition is real, though it will take some time to go mainstream.

“When you look back in the last three years, we did not have a natural growth rate of this [EV] technology, and therefore what's going to happen now is not that we will abandon this technology or consumers will say it will not happen, but it is just on a more natural growth path year over year, which is something that is very healthy,” he said.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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