How BMW is piloting the social shift towards the electric car

A tailor-made profile for a crucial mission. Ilka Horstmeier, 52 years old, the director of human resources (HRD) of the BMW group since 2019 and member of the executive committee of the German giant, is responsible for leading the biggest social transformation of the company, the one that must pass the “Factory”. Bavarian Motors’ (Bayerische Motoren Werke, the expanded name of BMW) in the era of the battery-electric car and hyperconnectivity. His career lends itself perfectly to this. Mme Horstmeier – who gave an interview to World Thursday, November 18 – passed through the German factories in Munich, Regensburg and Dingolfing and led the production of the company’s engines.

The challenge, it is true, is enormous. The world leader in premium, with its brands BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce, sold 153,000 electrified cars in the first half of 2021 out of a total of 1.2 million. Electricity (100% battery-powered or rechargeable hybrid) therefore represented 13% of sales at the start of 2021 and the company’s objective is to increase this proportion to 25% in 2025, then to double it in 2030. Therefore, a question arises for BMW as for its fellow car manufacturers: what will become of engineers, technicians and operators specializing in thermal engines?

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First element of answer: for BMW, the heat engine will still exist for a long time. “We believe that 50% of vehicles sold in 2030 will be purely electric cars, explains the HRD. But it also means that at the end of the decade we will still be selling 50% of cars with high-tech heat engines on a global scale. Why ? Because the rise in electrical sales will not have the same pace everywhere on the planet. If the demand for electricity is higher, of course we will supply more. But it is clear to us that we are not going to stop any technology. “

Preparation of changes as early as possible

This position explains BMW’s decision not to participate – unlike its great rival Mercedes – in the coalition of countries which, at the COP26 in Glasgow (Scotland), on November 10, decided to shut down the combustion engine completely in 2035- 2040. But the key element of the BMW method is preparing for changes as early as possible. “What I understood, especially from my years in production, is that if you want to take care of employees in a profound transformation, you must not start by thinking of the people, but of the product, observes Ilka Horstmeier. The right approach is not to say to yourself “I have how many people in the production of heat engines, in other words I have how many problems”, but to ask yourself very early on what product you want to make and think together. “

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