BMW and Mercedes join forces for autonomous car
German car manufacturers, BMW and Daimler, are joining forces in the development of the autonomous car. They want to share technology and investments to save costs. On the other hand, they continue to be arch-rivals in the market.
According to the German trade newspaper Handelsblatt, the joined investments would rise up to billions. The collaboration is purely strategic. BMW CEO, Harald Krüger, and future Daimler CEO, Ola Källenius, talk about sharing patents but also about platforms for smaller cars.
“Mercedes and BMW already shared the purchase of engines earlier”, remarks Ferdinand Dudenhöffer (Center for Automotive Research, Duisburg University). “Recently we witnessed the collaboration between DriveNow and Car2Go mobility services and together they have bought navigation specialist, HERE.
Both BMW and Daimler don’t want to comment on the news, in Munich they just call it ‘premature’. It’s clear, though, that the huge investments for electrified or autonomous driving are pushing manufacturers to work together. Look at the recent announcement of VW and Ford.
Last week at the NAIAS (Detroit motor show) it became clear that the car industry will invest 300 billion dollar in new technologies, German car manufacturers have to catch up when it comes to electric and autonomous cars.
In these particular fields the competition also comes from (initially) non-automotive companies, mainly out of Silicon Valley. “In these fields the competitor for BMW is not Daimler but Google, Uber or Alibaba”, says Dudenhöffer. “They have the best software.”
The growing collaboration between BMW and Daimler doesn’t mean that they are not arch-rivals in the market anymore. For years Munich and Stuttgart are competing to be the largest premium car manufacturer, the latter is winning (just) for the moment.
Stuttgart also want to become number one in every single market. In Belgium this won’t be easy: historically BMW is very strong here, also because of the important company car market.
The new boss at Mercedes-Benz Belux, Niels Kowollik, is clear: “Our aim is to become the number one in the premium car segment in 2020.” However, BMW (number 4 on the Belgian market) is not impressed. “That’s what they say a couple of years now”, grins Eddy Haesendonck, CEO BMW Belux.
“We don’t aim market leadership, we want growth and profitability. At BMW, the client is most important”, he adds. “We’ll see where we are at the end of the year, that’s less important.” Nevertheless, analysts think that a statement like this suggests that BMW Belux is seriously considering being number two once.
Until 2012 Audi was the best sold premium brand in Belgium. “We can do better than this”, says Denis Gorteman, CEO at D’Ieteren Auto, ” but our actual portfolio is not diversified enough to realize this now.
The German manufacturers have suffered a lot the last 4 months of 2018, because of the WLTP regulations transition and the serious decrease of diesel demand. “If the clients ask for much more petrol cars instead of diesels, we are not able to deliver instantly”, admits Kowollik.
With almost 550.000 new cars registered in 2018, the Belgian car market has its best year since 2011. Most of the Belgian importers are optimistic and think that the market will stay that way in 2019.
Not so for D’Ieteren Auto, representing 20% market share in Belgium with the import of all Volkswagen Group brands. They reckon that the car market will shrink with 6% to 520.000 units. Could be a more realistic view of things.