Tesla still has a lot to learn from established players like BMW when it comes to mass-production
The future of the automobile is fast moving towards electric-propulsion, and while Tesla has gained an enviable head start against the established players its Model 3 production woes have highlighted the complexities that come with high-volume manufacturing. BMW has frequently been criticised for its apparent reluctance to embrace the EV trend, having only the i3 as its sole all-electric offering. Yet it has been in the business of building cars for over a century and has quietly been preparing for its goal of offering 12 electric vehicles by 2025.
The electric Mini will be first to arrive in 2019 and seeing as BMW’s global production facilities churn out Tesla’s entire annual production every two weeks, the release of EV models should soon gain momentum in a big way. Following on from BMW’s AGM earlier this month, Oliver Zipse, the man responsible for BMW’s production network, said that producing cars in cycles of 60 seconds is the key to their current system. He also maintained that they do not intend to fully automate the assembly process either as human workers offer a level of flexibility unmatched by robots. Over-automation is an issue Elon Musk has already learned the hard way.
Clearly BMW is not taking any chances as it prepares for the next stage in its EV plans. According to a Bloomberg report, the assembly plant in Oxford, England, responsible for the electric Mini will be a template for upgrading four of BMW’s seven major plants by 2021. This measured approach should help to keep costs in check as EV production is ramped up. As Zipse says, inefficiencies at that scale are far more important to manage than in low-volume vehicles. While Tesla embodies the new-age thinking that was required to jump-start the industry into action, let’s hope Elon Musk is able to navigate his company successfully through this next phase as the big players really get going.