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BMW moves to meet Chinese consumers' evolving demand

By Li Fusheng | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-27 11:18
BMW's new 7 Series sedan is launched in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Friday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Regional CEO says strategy has allowed German automaker to outpace luxury vehicle industry

Carmakers in China must respond to quickly-evolving customer demands if they want to succeed, despite the vast potential of the world's largest car market, said a senior executive at German carmaker BMW.

"It is not like you launch any car and they will be bought. That time is gone," said Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China.

He made the remarks ahead of the new 7 Series sedan was launched in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Friday.

The flagship model has been extremely popular in China, where sales of the vehicle last year accounted for almost half of its total deliveries worldwide.

Goller said Chinese people's enjoyment of being chauffeured and the rising number of successful people as a result of the country's reform have contributed to the model's popularity.

He expects the segment will continue to grow in years to come. BMW, in response, is offering more luxury models like the X7 SUV and the 8 Series sedan.

Despite the vast potential of the Chinese market, Goller said companies will continue their success only by meeting local customers' demands.

"One thing is there is a market, but you have to be really good to sell in the market," he said.

He said BMW has learned a rule of thumb that the Chinese always expect changes, while customers in other markets may prefer a continuation, as China is permanently changing.

Specifically, Chinese customers are found to show a particular focus on the headlamps when they look at a car and premium car owners would like their cars to reflect their status, and BMW has made changes accordingly in the new 7 Series, including enlarging its iconic double-kidney grille, besides the latest technology, said Goller.

The German automaker's focus on meeting local demands is not limited to the flagship model. Since Goller took the helm of BMW China, he has made the product department report directly to him and succeeded in making the voice of Chinese customers to be better heard at BMW's headquarters in Munich.

Goller said his team uses statistics to influence designers and engineers to offer features that appeal to Chinese customers.

BMW's designers in Shanghai, part of the global design team, are also helping to respond fast to Chinese demands.

The localization efforts over the past few years and faster introduction of new models are helping BMW to see its popularity rise.

In the first four months, sales of BMW and MINI-branded vehicles in China totaled 227,603, up 12.1 percent year-on-year, thanks to mainly new models like the localized X3 SUV.

This year BMW will launch 25 models in the Chinese market, the largest ever product campaign in its history.

Goller said the carmaker will see faster growth than China's premium car industry, which is expected to increase 5 to 6 percent growth compared with 2018.

In the first four months, the segment saw an average growth of around 3 percent year-on-year.

In addition to being BMW's largest market, China is now home to the carmaker's largest research and development network outside Europe. The company employs about 1,000 engineers, and 80 percent of them are Chinese.

Milagros Caina-Andree, BMW's board member responsible for human resources, said the China team recruited around 120 engineers last year to help develop new trends including autonomous driving and electrification.

She said BMW will also make its plant in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning province, the sole production site globally of its electric iX3 SUV as part of the carmaker's "in China for China and the world" strategy.

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