With rising sales, BMW still cautious on bringing battery output in-house

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A logo of BMW is seen outside a BMW car dealer, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: A logo of BMW is seen outside a BMW car dealer, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brussels, Belgium May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

January 13, 2022

By Victoria Waldersee and Christina Amann

BERLIN (Reuters) – BMW, which reported record brand sales in 2021, remains cautious about bringing battery cell production for electric vehicles in-house too fast, its finance chief said on Thursday.

The German carmaker, which said it was upbeat about hitting the top end of its 9.5%-10.5% profit estimate, now buys battery cells from CATL, Samsung and Northvolt among others, but is building its own pilot battery cell plant.

“We have secured our needs for the next few years very well with the partners we have,” Nicolas Peter told Reuters, adding that the company would not scale up its own cell production until battery technology had developed further.

“We are not yet at the point where we can say what technology will accompany us for the next 10-15 years,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to invest a lot of resources with worldwide partners in battery cell development.”

Works council chief Manfred Schoch has pushed for scaling up BMW’s battery output, saying it would secure supplies and create jobs.

German car firms Volkswagen and Daimler both have direct stakes in battery cell makers.

Daimler, which holds 33% of Automotive Cells Company, said in July it planned to build eight gigafactories with partners.

Volkswagen plans to build six cell plants in Europe by the end of the decade with partners such as China’s Gotion High-Tech and Northvolt, in which it has a 20% stake.

BMW was working to build battery assembly sites at every factory but would rely on partners for cells, Peter said.

BMW, which weathered a chip shortage better than some rivals because of close ties with suppliers, reported a record 2.21 million deliveries from its BMW brand in 2021, while some rivals saw output fall. But BMW remains relatively cautious on margins.

VW-owned Audi expects a 9%-11% margin and Daimler said in December it wanted margins to be as much as 14%.

Peter said the transition to electric vehicles was moving faster than BMW had expected two to three years ago, with sales more than doubling last year and order books fuller than ever.

BMW, which made an early entry into electric vehicles but whose portfolio now lags some competitors, plans to add an extra Saturday shift at its Munich plant from April in order to meet demand, a spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee and Christina Amann; Editing by Miranda Murray and Edmund Blair)

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