by Marty Bernstein
AIADA Contributing Editor
Showcasing its commitment to emerging technologies and a new generation of consumers, German automaker BMW recently announced the formation of BMW i Ventures, a capital company that aims to develop individual mobility solutions for the world's biggest cities. With an investment fund of up to $100 million, the new venture will exist alongside BMW's recently announced BMW i secondary brand, which is the new business for sustainable vehicles and mobility solutions.
"The BMW i brand is the response to changing customer needs, including increasing demand for alternative drive trains, such as electric drive systems and hybrids," noted Ian Robertson, a member of the Board of Management of BMW AG who is responsible for sales and marketing. The lineup for the brand is expected to include the BMW i3 and i8 model cars to be launched in 2013 and built in a new €400 million factory in Leipzig, Germany.
According to a recent interview with Joerg Reimann, managing director of the new, "BMW i Ventures is the second pillar under the BMW i brand," as it is focusing on services not necessarily connected to cars. He admits it is, "An unconventional approach."
Edward Robinson, a three decade BMW veteran will be the president of BMWi Ventures in addition to his duties as president and CEO of BMW Financial Services, American Region. He noted, "We have chosen to base our operations in New York City because of its position as a center of digital media and technology."
Its headquarters is fitting as the new division is aimed at consumers in high density mega cities. One of the first investments of BMW i Ventures was in the start-up company that developed the "MyCity Way," a free smart phone app, which aggregates information in 40 cities in the U.S. and Europe, including public transportation, parking, entertainment, and others.
Apart from BMW's i Ventures, the brand's new BMW i vehicles are targeting the market for "sustainable vehicles." Reimann pointed to the i3 and i8 vehicles, which will be composed primarily of carbon fiber and developed in conjunction with a company in the state of Washington.
The company is also exploring car sharing, with efforts already underway in Munich. Americans are familiar with car sharing programs like ZipCar. The company, whose IPO went on sale in April, is now in 14 metro areas, on 230 college campuses, and has almost 500,000 users.
Given the rather tenuous nature of the automobile business, new EPA and European regulations, higher gas pump prices, and a surge in interest for alternate fuel vehicles it will be interesting to follow the progress and programs developed by BMW's new venture.