BMW’s focus on engineering excellence allied to leading-edge design continues to drive successful, profitable expansion. In 2007 BMW sales increased by 8%, Mini by 18% and Rolls-Royce by 26% with, for the first time ever, over 1000 of the super luxury cars being produced in one year. To further this growth, a host of new models is being launched, including the Mini Clubman and the new sport utility vehicle, the BMW X6 - the world’s first SUV coupe. While the Clubman reinvents views on vehicle access, the X6 is an excellent example of BMW innovation at work. It combines the safety and convenience of a four-wheel-drive with the on-road performance of a sports car and is designed to appeal to the driver who enjoys a commanding driving position, but also savours the characteristics of a sports car. With its stretched coupé silhouette and pronounced performance design, underpinned by hybrid engine options, as previously achieved with the X5 and the X3 in allied markets, the X6 is the latest instance of BMW changing perceptions of what a car should provide – for its passengers and its driver alike. At its heart, it restates an aspiration for driving that is both exclusive and yet also available to the mass market.
BMW has also been at the forefront of introducing new IT options to enhance the driving experience. Starting with the iDrive first introduced in the 7-series, BMW ConnectedDrive is now available across most models and is adding greater functionaility. After being one of the first to offer the capability for MP3 connectivity and incorporate RSS feeds including weather information, in 2007 BMW teamed up with Google to offer a PC driven route planning service. Of course this level of innovation does not come cheaply and a key challenge going forward will be to keep research and development costs under control. During the last five years, BMW’s average annual R&D investment has been around €2,300 per car, compared with €1,700 spent by arch-rival Mercedes. Alongside the examples above, much of the money has gone into the car maker's Efficient Dynamics programme aimed at making engines more efficient, improving aerodynamics, reducing weight and capturing energy during braking. As the numbers clearly show, BMW is a mass market player but one that successfully uses focused innovation to build and maintain the aspirational driving experience for many. Through a constant stream of consumer informed innovations, the company has moved ahead of its peers and future sustained and profitable growth is widely predicted.
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