11 Apr 16

Marco Lessacher, BMW Group: “We thrive on competition”

Corporate fleet sales represent 31% of BMW Group's overall sales in Europe. Not bad, but the Bavarians want to do even better. Marco Lessacher, the Group's VP International Corporate, Direct and Special Sales, explains how

Marco Lessacher: “By enhancing our customer relationships. Specifically, we're positioning specially trained staff in our dealer and marketing organisations. The goal: create a 'single point of contact' for fleet managers, which will help us understand specific requirements, as well as offer specific solutions. We'll also support our dealers with fleet business programmes designed to meet the needs of user-choosers”.

Which new products can we expect from BMW – and how will they add value for corporate fleet customers?

“At the end of last year, we introduced the BMW 7 Series and the new BMW X1. They're already very popular. Before Christmas, we added the X5 PHEV. In the coming years, we'll roll out PHEV versions of all our BMWs. All will have a considerable emission-free range, as well as a high degree of fuel efficiency over longer distances”.

“This March, we'll launch the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer PHEV and the BMW 3 Series PHEV and later this year, the 7 Series PHEV. As for MINI, I think the new Clubman has a lot to offer our corporate customers: a combination of great styling, spacious interior and plenty of practical features”.

The premium brands are fighting a huge battle in development and sales. Who will win?

“We all thrive on competition. Its current levels are not new. Ultimately, it has helped us develop a wide variety of products and services in the premium segment. We've often led the industry in opening up new market segments – think of the current trend for SAVs. I don't expect competition to get easier, yet I'm sure we'll continue to offer what the market finds attractive”.

The three German premium brands have joined together to buy HERE. How will acquiring Nokia's mapping service via that partnership add value for your customers?

“First off, let's keep in mind that HERE remains an independent company. As the leading provider of highly precise digital maps and location-based maps and services, it has customers in all kinds of industries”.

“Of course, high-quality, real-time mapping is especially crucial for the future of mobility. By acquiring HERE, the three brands have made sure that the company's products will remain fully available in future, for all of its customers. The more partners and customers join in, the better the accuracy of the info provided by HERE. That's a big customer win”.

BMW is a big innovator when it comes to alternative powertrains. But are they being adopted by corporate fleets?

“How many PHEV vehicles are used in a fleet is directly proportional to the TCO. If you consider purely electric vehicles, fleet operators have to take into account the charging infrastructure, charging speed, and drive range. As alternative drive systems develop towards a performance that is similar to conventional vehicles, the uptake by corporates will increase”.

Even before and beside 'Dieselgate', diesel is under pressure in Europe. What's BMW's take on the issue?

“Let's not forget that much of the reduction in CO2 emissions is thanks to diesel technology. Without diesel engines, which emit up to 20% less CO2 than petrol ones, it would be impossible to meet the fleet requirements of the future. So we really need diesel. It's one of the cleanest, most efficient engine types around – if you use the right technology. BMW Group has invested a lot in refining and optimising diesel technology, as part of our EfficientDynamics programme”.

“And then there is the recent spotlight on the gap between official test results and real-life emissions and fuel consumption. The EU is currently working on a new test cycle, the so-called WLTP, which will take in more real-life driving situations. We're all for a swift introduction of these rules; in our opinion, customers deserve clarity on these matters”.

“However, we foresee a moment when it's no longer be economically viable to adapt diesel engines to increasingly strict regulations. At that point, electric drive will really come into play”.

BMW Group is also a major mobility innovator. Which are the products and services you will deploy so companies can make the most of a future in which connectivity, urbanisation and sharing are increasingly important?

“Mobility is fundamental, socially and economically, and mobility needs are increasing, both in the private sphere and in the corporate sector. This is challenging, also for the environment. So mobility concepts, wherever they are and whoever they are aimed at, need not only be cost-effective but also, always, up to standard when it comes to the environment and to customer service”.

“Through our 'Now' family and our Alphabet fleet management subsidiary, we at BMW Group already offer innovative solutions that include car sharing, parking and charging. We'll keep developing these solutions, without losing sight of the particular needs of every company that uses them”.

Non-traditional players like Google, Apple and Uber are entering the automotive industry – with others sure to follow. Danger or opportunity?

“Several trends are converging – digitalisation, demographic change, urbanisation – to transform the mobility requirements of the future. This is an opening for smart new players. It's up to them to get a foot in the door with innovative and/or digital services”.

“It may sound like a paradox, but we at BMW have been innovating for 100 years! We have a consistent record of making the right choices at the right time. We've always shaped our mobility offer to accommodate the demands of our customers, as well as environmental requirements. Of course we take competition seriously – also from newer players. As I've said, we thrive on competition!”

Authored by: Steven Schoefs