BMW Is Scaring Employees Into Taking EVs Seriously

One of its scare tactics is a giant picture of Elon Musk's face.

After enjoying a couple decades of benchmark status in the world of luxury cars, BMW finds itself falling behind in the luxury EV segment. The German automaker is at the point of admitting failure and getting aggressive about rectifying its lack of progress. Mercedes sold more units than BMW in 2016, which may have fueled the dark tone of BMW’s strange presentation.

BMW gathered some of its high-level employees to an obscure location near Munich. In an auditorium at an abandoned airfield, employees were shown a strange sort of horror film that included images of competing cars from the likes of Mercedes, Porsche, and Jaguar. Among these images was a picture of Tesla CEO Elon Musk. As Musk appeared on the screen, the BMW presenter announced “We’re in the midst of an electric assault. This must be taken very seriously.”

While BMW does have its i3 compact EV and plug-in hybrid i8 sports car, the brand still isn’t big enough to be dominant in the electric luxury market. These two models are great cars, but neither of them falls into big-selling segments like an entry-level sport sedan—a segment BMW arguably created and perfected—or a crossover. BMW does have iPerformance plug-in hybrid versions of existing models, but BMW needs to flesh out its zero-emission lineup if they’re going to keep up.

There is some hope for electric BMWs on the horizon. Their iNext self-driving EV concept was on display at its presentation. The iNext is a futuristic sedan that aesthetically fits right in with the existing “i” lineup. It’s slated for a 2021 debut and BMW hopes it will be competitive with the Tesla Model S, which will have been around for nine years by the time the new Bimmer comes out.

The rest of BMW’s weird meeting continued with a VR version of CEO Harald Krueger stressing the importance of embracing new technology. When it was time for the question-and-answer session, nobody had any questions. Elon and the Tesla Model 3 are out for BMW blood. Can BMW stay competitive or will it stick to what it was good at thirty-five years ago?