BMW to have the most extensive EV portfolio in India, says India CEO Vikram Pawah

Vikram Pawah, President and CEO of BMW India with the new BMW i4 electric sedan.

Vikram Pawah, President and CEO of BMW India with the new BMW i4 electric sedan.

Helming the launch of BMW India’s third electric vehicle (EV) offering, president and CEO Vikram Pawah told Moneycontrol in an interview that he is buoyant about the company’s EV prospects in the country. The BMW i4 electric sedan has been introduced at a price of Rs 69.9 lakh. It’s said to be the longest-range EV in the country, at up to 590 km.

After a 25 percent jump in sales in the January-March quarter, Pawah doesn’t mince words when talking about plans to conquer the luxury EV market in the country. Edited excerpts:

Given the customer preference for SUVs, do you see demand for an electric sedan exceeding that of the iX SUV, which sold out very quickly?

Absolutely. This is the first fully electric mid-size sedan in the country. I’m sure when people take a look at it, at the features, they look at the package, they’re going to find incredible value here.

Can you give us more details about the BMW charging infrastructure – will it be limited to the dealer network for the moment?

What we’re focusing on first is a private charging network. So that begins with our customers to whom we’re providing an 11 kW wall charger so at least they have a charging facility available either at their home or their office.

The next stage is at dealer networks – so we’ve already installed 50 DC fast chargers in particular cities. So I’d say we have the widest network of fast chargers in the luxury space. The next step, as volumes continue to grow, we’ll make sure we continue to participate in the EV public charging space.

What do you make of companies like Tesla and Ford withdrawing from the EV space in India?

Normally, I would not comment on any other brand. I think they have their own situation that they need to deal with.

We at BMW have invested in India for the last 15 years. We just completed 15 years of our plant operations in 2022. We also recently delivered our 100,000th car. So you can see that we’ve been in India for a very long time and we’ll continue to do that. We promise we will have the most extensive EV portfolio in India. We’ve already begun doing that with the three EVs that we’ve launched. The iX is a proper sports activity vehicle with four-wheel drive. Or if you want a premium electric hatch, there’s the Mini SE. And now if you want an electric sedan, you’ve got the i4.

Will attrition impact growth of the EV segment? Or will it benefit legacy carmakers in the luxury space to have the playing field to themselves?

I think we focus on our customers. What we’ve been hearing from our customers is that they want different drivetrains… they’re looking for petrol in certain circumstances and certain segments, or diesel in certain others. For the 7 Series, it’s the diesel model that’s in demand. But it’s the electric space that our customers have been asking us about and I think it became evident in the overwhelming demand that we saw at the launch of the first two products. We are here to provide the right solutions to our customers, be it the petrol, diesel or electric space.

When can we expect local assembly of BMW EVs?

Most of our volume models are produced in India with about 50 percent localisation. So, as the demand grows for electric cars, of course, we will be looking at commencing local assembly. It all really depends on demand. When demand reaches the threshold, we will take local assembly into consideration.

Range is certainly a key differentiator for the i4, but can we expect BMW EVs to also lean towards performance like their petrol-powered counterparts?

Absolutely… It’s all about driving dynamics. So you’ll never have a BMW car that doesn’t possess those driving dynamics. I can guarantee that once you drive the car, you can feel that this is the only EV where you can feel its driving dynamics, while also having access to the longest-range EV in the country. BMWs are all about joy. It’s what people love about BMW and we will continue to deliver that even in the electric space.

Given the current tax structure, what kind of market share do you think EVs will occupy by 2030?

It’s hard to say. The government wants 30 percent, which I think is possible if the policies are stable. If the infrastructure develops at the pace at which it’s going right now and the investments continue to deliver in the public infrastructure space, I’m confident that it’s possible for us to achieve that target. Especially with the current GST rebates in place and the PLI (productivity-linked incentive) schemes that have been offered.

BMW recently announced investing in a pure-EV platform. What are the benefits?

BMW has always defined trends. We created the market for a sports activity vehicle way back. We created the market for gran coupes. So what we want to do is create a new system which is digital first, electric first. We’re focusing on a circular economy. We’ll be the most sustainable automotive brand in the world.

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