New BMW Boss Rekindles the Rivalry, Politely Demands Employees Catch Up to Mercedes-Benz

Image: BMW Group

Longtime luxury rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz may have signed onto an autonomous vehicle/ride-hailing partnership earlier this year, but that doesn’t mean the two companies go around holding hands. The competitive spirit is still there; AV development just carries a price tag neither company wants to pay in full.

For BMW as well as M-B, the lucrative core business of selling luxury vehicles to a well-heeled clientele remains top of mind, and Bimmer’s new boss isn’t happy that his Stuttgart rivals are running away with the sales crown.

Oliver Zipse took over as CEO on Friday, replacing Harald Krüger as chairman of the board of management after his predecessor’s unexpected decision not to seek another term at the helm. In Zipse’s first memo to BMW employees, the CEO whipped up the spirit of competition, urging the company to do everything in its power to give the boys at Benz what-for.

Five years spent trailing a rival is rough, though Zipse seems content to accept a leaner, more efficient, and more responsive company than one that generates extra volume by any means possible. But if an altered corporate culture achieves that goal, all the better.

“Instead of blaming the current situation, conditions, political landscape or particular individuals, a positive spirit will enable us to seize the opportunities available to us. Such a positive spirit will be reflected in our culture: the harder the job, the more innovative our solution,” Zipse wrote in a company-wide email obtained by Reuters.

“We don’t always have to be first, but we most certainly have to be far better than our competitors in everything that we do. This applies not only to our products and services, but also to our processes and structures, as well as our costs.”

As concerns mount about the cost not just of self-driving tech but also electric propulsion and the new platforms needed to underpin such vehicles, premium automakers are counting on sales of big-bucks traditional vehicles to cover the expense and fill coffers ahead of the next recession. In BMW’s case, the company hopes to find extra dollars from the likes of the new 8 Series and hulking crossovers like the X7.

Despite the challenges and storm clouds, there’s reason for optimism at BMW Group. Through July, global deliveries increased 0.9 percent, with last month showing a 1.3 percent year-over-year jump. The BMW brand itself rose 1.6 percent, year to date, fueled by growing demand for the X vehicles that now make up 49.5 percent of the brand’s global sales.

In contrast, the Mercedes-Benz brand recorded a 2.4 percent decrease through July, though last month saw a 12.7 percent year-over-year sales hike. At the end of July, deliveries of vehicles bearing the three-pointed star totalled 1,323,586 units, while those with propeller logos found 1,233,075 customers.

[Image: BMW Group]

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