BMW: to Make Lone Shift to Carbon Fiber to Gain Auto Edge

According to Bloomberg,

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s bid to save its cars from potential extinction starts with hundreds of thousands of fine white strands snaking upwards in a production hall in rural Washington.

Looped through an almost mile-long course, what looks like the world’s thinnest rice noodles will be stretched, toasted and eventually scorched black to create carbon fiber — a material thinner than human hair and yet tougher than steel.

BMW will use the sleek, black filaments for the passenger frame of the i3 electric car, which goes on sale at dealers in Germany tomorrow and around the world in the coming months. It’s the first effort to mass produce a car made largely from carbon fiber and represents the biggest shift in automobile production since at least the 1980s when the first all-aluminum car frames were made.

The strategy started taking shape six years ago, as Norbert Reithofer, then the newly appointed chief executive officer, examined trends affecting the industry and concluded that increased environmental awareness would likely prompt tougher emissions regulations that could make the future of autobahn cruisers like the 5-Series sedan unsustainable.

Business ThreatsFreshly Made Carbon Fiber (Bloomberg)

“Looking forward to 2020, we saw threats to our business model,” Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner, who was head of strategic planning at the time, said in an interview in his sparsely furnished office in BMW’s landmark four-cylinder headquarters building in Munich. “We had to find a way to bring models like the 6-Series, 7-Series and X5 into the future.”

For BMW to continue to sell cars that live up to the company’s “ultimate driving machine” claim, the manufacturer needed to offset those emissions with a viable electric vehicle for growing cities, where more and more potential customers would live. That was the start of the i3.

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