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BMW Refuses To Abandon Hardcore Gearheads

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At least for the next few decades.

The big thing in the automotive world these days is electrification. All automakers are now heavily invested in the technology. Tesla is no longer alone. So does this mean internal combustion, both gasoline and diesel, will be going away completely? Eventually, yes, but not anytime soon. That's the way BMW sees things.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe, BMW Group's chief technical officer and board member, Klaus Froelich, made his views on the subject quite clear. "A best assumption of 30 percent of electrified sales (battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids) by 2025 means that at least 80 percent of our vehicles will have an internal combustion engine," he said. "We see areas without a recharging infrastructure such as Russia, the Middle East and the western, internal part of China so they will rely on gasoline engines for another 10 to 15 years."

Parts of China, such as Beijing and Shanghai, are likely to be battery-only within a decade or so. This simply won't be the case elsewhere in the country, which also just so happens to be the world's largest automotive market. Meanwhile in the US, battery-electric vehicles will undoubtedly continue to be popular on both coasts, but not as much the so-called "heartland." That will continue to take time.

To balance things out, BMW will begin selling powerful plug-in hybrids from the M division first. This will not only enable a technological showcase but also serve as a way to generate emissions credits. "The shift to electrification is overhyped," Froelich said. "Battery-electric vehicles cost more in terms of raw materials for batteries. This will continue and could eventually worsen as demand for these raw materials increases."

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So yes, internal combustion will very much remain part of BMW's product lineup everywhere, but it will be gradually phased out in ways that are suitable to those regions. There is, however, one specific gasoline-powered engine type whose days are numbered.

"Each year, we have to invest to update the V12 to new emissions regulations, particularly in China," Froelich said. "And when the V12 accounts for about 5,000 sales a year globally, this includes Rolls-Royce, the cost of these updates is several thousand euros per unit." BMW's V8s, just like its six-cylinders, will soon all be electrified.