BMW has set up "Project i", a new division meant to develop totally unique concepts available for BMW, MINI, Rolls Royce, or a future fourth brand.
As more and more governments have begun to plan for a world less reliant on OPEC, BMW has set their sights on the future. The company has acknowledged the need to explore alternatives to traditional cars, and has set up a new division responsible for the development of "new car and mobility concepts." Meant to look into transportation solutions for the biggest cities in the world, "Project i" may develop ideas for any division within BMW.
News of the unit comes on the heels of a statement made by BMW India President Peter Kronschnabl confirming plans to develop a concept for the as-yet nonexistant luxury micro car segment. At a press conference in Munich earlier today, Chairman of the Board Dr. Norbert Reithofer told journalists that BMW will consider Project i solutions for their three brands, BMW, MINI, and Rolls-Royce, but they have not ruled out introducing a fourth brand. Further, BMW has given Project i an immense amount of latitude, making them completely independent of BMW HQ.
It is unclear if the new unit will begin working on either a vehicle for a new Triumph launch, or a rebirth of the Isetta. Either concept could be ideal for a division expected to produce unique transportation ideas. BMW acquired Triumph after buying out Rover in the mid-90s.
In his speech, Reithofer also confirmed that BMW is looking into the possibility of launching an all-electric car. BMW had been rumored to be working on a city car for quite some time now. That car is expected to have a turbocharged petrol or diesel engine, but last month the door opened for BMW to consider an electric model meant to rival the Audi A1. "It does not only work at a zero-emission level. The technology is now sophisticated enough to offer sheer driving pleasure," he said. BMW will make a final decision on a battery-powered car by the end of this year. The text of Dr. Reithofer's speech can be seen on the following pages.
BMW has some room to spare when exploring new research and development possibilities. All three of their active brands combined for sales over 1.5 million vehicles. The 9.2% increase over last year led to a record number of sales for BMW in 2007. Pre-tax profits for the company totaled €3.87 billion, which was down by 6.1% from 2007. The company explains this dip as being due to an increase in '06 profits following the sale of bonds for Rolls-Royce in that year.