Pieter Nota (CMO BMW): ‘Being a traditional car maker is a big asset’
Since January the Dutchman Pieter Nota is Chief Marketing Officer and member of the board at BMW. He is confident that BMW will survive the coming decades and that being a traditional car manufacturer is also a big asset for the mobility battle of the future.
The appointment of Pieter Nota made some noise in the German press: “he’s not a German and not a car guy, he never sold a car”, were the comments.
“That I never sold a car before I came here is true, but since then I already sold a few… In fact I’m a real car guy, I’ve always been passionate about cars and like/drove BMWs for a long time.”
But the fact that you’re here now is because the shareholders wanted people from outside the company to have a better equilibrium inside the board?
“That’s very true. It makes sense to attract people and ideas from outside, especially when your sector is in an important transition period. I’ve always been focused on the client and his well-being, if we can combine a terrific product like a BMW with the best client friendliness, we are unbeatable.”
There aren’t many foreigners and surely no Dutchmen in big foreign companies, in the Euro Stoxx 50 you are the only one. What brought you to the top?
“My international experience and having worked in Germany, knowing the German culture and being married to a German wife, can help. Germans are very thorough, everything is well prepared and when the decision is made action will be taken without hesitation. I like that. In these times you can’t afford to be slow, but you have to be right.”
If BMW is right and thorough, how can you explain the wrong software to be put in 11.000 BMWs? German justice was not happy and even searched your premises because of that.
“How many updates you get for your telephone a year? Sometimes mistakes happen. It’s ridiculous to think we did it on purpose. We will correct things as soon as possible. The interest of the German justice is annoying but we will prove we had nothing to hide.”
BMW is making record sales and profits but the stock market is cautious. Do shareholders see something what the BMW board doesn’t?
The shares of BMW still hold a big potential. Our four big assets are autonomous driving, connectivity, electric propulsion and services. But we are flexible, we don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket. We were pioneer of electric propulsion back in 2013 and in the next years we will have 25 electrified vehicles on offer, of which half are pure electric.
There is talk about the 4th industrial revolution. Why do the old traditional car manufacturers can make this turnaround without perishing?
Being a traditional car maker is in a big asset. We have accumulated knowledge, we produce high volumes of cars, we generate profits. We have the money to invest in new technology and when you look at the amount of money outsiders have to invest and the hurdles they have to take…”
But a company like Tesla sold 3 times more electric cars than BMW.
“That’s true, but we sold 2,5 million cars last year, that’s totally different. We can manage a complex manufacturing process and we have the distribution network, those are big assets. In the future we will still be selling hardware but also services. And in some cases we will work together with competitors, look at the recent fusion of our mobility services with Daimler. It’s with both sides, hardware and services, that money will be made in the future.”
What does that mean for the marketing responsible?
“The client must be the centre of our attention. Not in the old fashioned way of ‘the customer is always right’ but we will use his data to serve him (much) better. Big data are the key, a company like Amazon thrives on them. An example: with our parkmobile-app we are already the biggest parking provider in the world. But you can also sell entertainment: we lead you to a football match in our car and we also sell you the ticket for the match.”
Younger people seem to care less about owning a car. How is BMW coping with that?
“The impact of car-sharing will still be small in the coming years. Many families will still have their own car, maybe they will use car-sharing sometimes, but this will come very slowly. And still not all people live in cities or in the industrialized western world.”
You’re obviously thinking about China. But a big number of the cars you sell in China are made in the USA and president Trump is talking about trade barriers. Wouldn’t it be better to produce locally?
“China is a huge market with young customers, that’s important. But BMW produces cars in Germany, the US, in the Netherlands, in South Africa and in China. It is obvious that there will be shifts in the future, we will produce where demand is big. In June of this year the production of the X3 will start in China and, as you know, we just showed the concept of an electrified one in Beijing this week, that will be very important.”
Still BMW is an important exporter of cars in the US?
“BMW invested 8 to 9 billion euro in American facilities, we employ 10.000 people in South-Carolina. Taking the suppliers into account we employ some 70.000 people indirectly. These are important figures. Why Trump doesn’t understand this, you have to ask him. We are convinced that facts will prevail in the end.”
BMW was not very happy with the way the incentives for hybrid cars were abolished or changed in the Netherlands and in Belgium…
“Stimulating measures are sometimes needed to make change coming sooner. In 2017 we sold 103.000 electrified cars and we are preparing a serious offensive around electrical mobility. But that doesn’t mean the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) is dead yet. People in more rural areas will still be happy with their conventional engine, be it petrol or even diesel.”