Tasked with taking BMW to new heights, from eco-friendly initiatives to pushing the boundaries within the luxury automobile industry, Managing Director and CEO of BMW Malaysia Harald Hoelzl sits with The Peak and reveals how he remains driven.
What is BMW’s Story of Luxury?
Basically the people in our target groups, they understand luxury in a different way. It’s not about what they have or what they possess or how big their wealth is, it is also about time. For instance, what they can do with the time available, apart from the business and the other responsibilities that they are tied to in their professional career. This expresses who they are and not what they have. I think BMW with their future developments, as we have shown with the BMW iNext that we are going to launch in 2021, will shift the company into a totally different direction that you don’t see in our current cars.
The car can transform into a relaxed living space if needs be, but it can still be driven in a sporty way or autonomously, the car can drive you. But you can also enjoy the car as a space and this is also a kind of luxury that most car manufacturers don’t offer right now as they are all very driving focused. I see this as a kind of luxury in the future to decide what else to do in the car.
What value do BMW cars add to its customer’s life?
Free choice of how to use the car and the interior. The car can be used as a sporty fun thing as you enjoy the curvy roads to Genting Highlands, or you are autonomously driven to your workplace. You can do a lot of other things in the car as well you can answer phone calls, write emails, or you can simply lean back and relax, sleep or even have a nice conversation with the passenger beside you. I think a car that allows you all these choices, adds luxury to life. You can see some elements of it, as some of our cars have some autonomous functions already. It offers you the excitement of the technology. I like that. Let’s say you take a slow ride and you have time to drive, you can enjoy the car a lot. I really love to drive the car, and I enjoy the way to the office with my car even if it’s on the highway or not, because it is, as we say, sheer driving pleasure. This is not only a marketing slogan, it is really the case, and I experience that every day.
How do you plan to personify and redefine the brand in the way of modern luxury?
New technologies connect the drive. For example, if you use a BMW plug-in hybrid car and the connected app that we offer it adds a lot of convenience to the driver. That means if your car is parked at a very hot place and the temperature is already above 37 degrees in the interior, you can pre-cool the car with the app. Ten minutes before you are set to drive you simply press the button and the car starts to cool itself, and when you enter the car its cold. This is, of course, a kind of luxury, but when you look into our cars, it is also the craftsmanship that you can see, feel and experience when you are driving. This is one of the most important things BMW is very experienced in, to simply deliver top-notch cars with cutting edge technology. This refers to the drive trains that are extremely well balanced and it doesn’t end there. It is also the leather steering wheel. When you have the leather steering wheel in the hand it simply connects you to the car like nothing else. All these small details are extremely important for our engineers, designers and technicians.
All this together delivers luxury in the way we see it. It’s not the goal applications but it’s a full package of sheer driving pleasure our customers enjoy from the 1 to the 7 series, from an X1 to an X5 or X6. We are talking about the future now. The second thing is also the choices in terms of the product we offer. For instance, with the new X5 and the new 3 series you will see a lot more options, than in the past, and you will have a certain choice there as well.
How is Malaysia’s audience interaction compared to those on the global scale?
There is not a tremendous difference when we do marketing in general for the Southeast Asian audience, they are more into digital communication. So when we oversee our budget expenses, we spend a lot more on digital possibilities than we do in Europe. I think the audience here is as critical as anywhere else so you have to deliver top service. One of my learnings here in Malaysia is that our service at the dealers is not at the level where we expect it and we have launched several initiatives together with them to improve that. It’s not a secret that we have to streamline and act more customer-centric when it’s about servicing the cars. This is an industry problem in Asia, especially in Malaysia. It’s not typical for BMW but we have made a lot of progress already in the last couple of months.
When it comes to its competitors, how does BMW handle the heat?
Competition is always everywhere, but we strongly believe that we are leading the pack in terms of functionality and technology. We will be continuing on in this vein in the next months and years, and as I said, practical examples are our connected app and plug-in hybrid cars with a practical daily to use functionality that eases up the life of our customers.
This is how we are going to continue, especially with electrification and automatisation of driving, so the next few years to come will see a lot of new thrilling innovations when it comes to the automotive sector.
Any future plans that we can come to expect from BMW in the next year or so?
I wouldn’t talk about next year, I would talk about this year in 2019, as what our customers have seen is the biggest model in the history of BMW Group globally. We can also expect the 8 series, 7 series, 3 series, motorcycles, scooters, CX400, C400X, mini GCW.
We launched the i3 IN 2013, that was the first fully electric car in the model line up of BMW, 6 years ago. Last year the BMW Group sold 140,000 electric vehicles globally. In Malaysia, we are proud to say we have a share of electric wide vehicles when we talk about our entire sales of BMW cars of almost 60%. So 60% of the cars that we sell in Malaysia have a plug-in hybrid drive train. When it comes to efficiency and emission, it is state-of-the-art, and we will continue with that. On a global perspective, we will do even more because electric drive trains are welcomed even more in our cars. One of my personal aims in Malaysia is to introduce a fully electric car to Malaysians. We don’t know when this will happen exactly but I am working hard on achieving that target