BMW has ended the production of internal combustion engines at its main plant in Munich. The long-announced step was taken to make room for the production of electric cars at their biggest Bavarian plant.
The manufacturer has wholly relocated the production of combustion engines to Steyr in Austria and Hams Hall in the UK. BMW announced this move in November 2020, and the last eight-cylinder engine was assembled at the plant in Munich at the beginning of this month. After 60 years of engine production in Munich, this is a turning point for Bayerische ‘Motoren’werke.
Conversion and retraining
The Munich plant will be converted for the production of EVs. The all-electric BMW i4 has been built in Munich since October 2021. As reported, the New Class (Neue Klasse) will also be rolling off the production line at the main plant starting in 2026. BMW is investing around €400 million in converting the existing engine assembly line for vehicle construction.
The 1 200 employees who previously worked in engine construction will now be retrained and deployed in other areas in the future, either at the Munich plant or at other BMW locations. The Works Council expressly welcomed the decision and multi-million euro investment in 2020 and spoke of a “role model for a successfully organized transformation in German industry”.
Shaping the (electric) future
With the reorganization of the main plant in Munich, BMW’s Bavarian production network for electric cars is taking shape. The i4 is already being built in Munich, while the iX, i7, and i5 are coming off the production line in Dingolfing.
The iX1 and iX2 electric SUVs are built in Regensburg, and other plants are also involved in component production. The electric drive production, for example, is located in Dingolfing, and a battery test center is being built in Wackersdorf.
At the end of September, the residents of the German municipality of Strasskirchen also decided in a referendum that BMW should be allowed to build its planned battery assembly plant there. In the future, BMW will assemble the delivered battery cells into ready-to-install battery packs centrally at the site and then distribute them to the neighboring vehicle plants.
BMW aims for 25% of its sales to be electric by 2026 before hitting 50% in 2030. The arrival of the ‘New Class’ (Neue Klasse) in 2025 will play a significant role here. At the IAA Mobility in September in Munich, the company presented the concept Vision Neue Klasse, a preview of the first car of this new class to be launched in 2025.
No ban on ICE
Meanwhile, Thomas Becker, BMW’s global head of sustainability and mobility, argues that policymakers should focus on incremental targets in the coming years instead of outright banning ICE engines.
“Why is there this total focus in the policy debate about ‘When do I force the last customer who may buy an ICE car to go for an electric or take one of the ICE cars that are already there’?” he asked in an interview with the British Sunday Times.
“Wouldn’t it make more sense to say: How can we get from 30 to 40% of sales in electric, for instance, and do it the fastest way possible?” Becker was interviewed by the Sunday Times after the British government decided to push back the deadline for banning ICE from 2030 to 2035.
Becker told the Sunday Times that the decision would not impact BMW’s electric vehicle production plans. “We didn’t support it in the outset. We are critical toward banning,” he commented. “We want people to spend a lot of money on our products because they say ‘It’s the best product for me’, because they want it and not because they have to.”