BMW says profits will double this year amid ambitious plan to embrace electric vehicles

BMW AG said profitability will at least double this year as the luxury carmaker joined rivals in targeting a steep rise in electric-vehicle sales by the end of the decade.

Returns from automaking will recover to between 6% and 8%, BMW said Wednesday in a statement. That’s up from 2.7% last year, and higher than analysts’ expectations. The automaker plans for about half of total sales to be electric by the end of the decade, and will switch its urban Mini brand to only sell battery-powered cars around that time, it said.

“We have started the new year with strong momentum and are aiming to return to pre-crisis levels as swiftly as possible,” Chief Executive Officer Oliver Zipse said. “We have a clear road map for making the transformation of our industry a real competitive advantage for BMW in the coming years.”

While carmakers’ revamp efforts have been jolted by the pandemic, they’re accelerating the shift to become efficient EV-making operations with greater software capabilities. Volkswagen AG this week detailed plans that effectively will turn Europe’s biggest automaker into a major battery-cell maker, as well. Volvo Cars and General Motors Co. have set dates to go fully electric, while Daimler AG is spinning off its trucks unit after a century of making commercial vehicles and cars.

BMW rose 1.1% in early Frankfurt trading, valuing the Munich-based company at 52.7 billion euros ($62.7 billion)

‘Neue Klasse’

The manufacturer said it will have around a dozen battery-only models by 2023, followed by EV and software underpinnings from 2025 for a new set of vehicles dubbed “New Class,” reminiscent of a range of models made in the 1960s. The cars will be built to recycle as much material as possible for use in new vehicles, and boost revenues from customers booking digital features, BMW said.

“We are intent on ensuring that the ‘greenest’ electric car on the market is made by BMW,” Zipse said.

The automaker has come through last year’s health crisis better than expected and so far has dodged a global semiconductor shortage. Its shares have still trailed gains achieved by rivals with ambitious EV targets. VW sees 1 million EV and plug-in hybrid sales this year, and its namesake brand this month doubled a goal for EV sales in Europe to 70% share by the end of the decade.

BMW’s group profit before tax will be significantly higher, based on a “solid” rise in deliveries, after pretax profit slumped 35% to 4.8 billion euros last year as the pandemic shook the industry.

The carmaker may have 2 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025, rising to 10 million by 2030 for at least half of global deliveries. BMW previously said it expects 20% of sales to be battery or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2023.

The company will unveil its i4 electric sedan three months early and install a new operating system in the battery iX SUV with a plan to have the world’s biggest car fleet enabled for over-the-air software upgrades by the end of the year.

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