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BMW Wants More

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CNBC.com

The comment from BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer is an intriguing one. Speaking at a conference in Europe, Reithofer said that Germany's auto makers, "Have to come up with something new."

It's an interesting comment since BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen have not been at the forefront of pushing the electric car, which many consider the future of cars.

His comments come just a few weeks after BMW announced plans to build Megacity battery powered cars. They will come from the first German factory to mass-produce battery powered cars, and represent a major commitment by a German automaker to electric powered cars. But, as impressive as those plans are, Reithofer believes the industry needs to look beyond electricity.

He's right. The problem is nobody, including BMW, is quite sure what will power our cars in the future. My guess is that we're entering a period where consumers will have a variety of choices. Each will come with pros and cons, but it's too soon to say one will replace the domination of the gasoline powered internal combustion engine.

For years, BMW and other European automakers have pushed diesel and the belief that Americans will eventually wake up to the advantages of diesel. While they are 100% right about the advantages of diesel, they have been dead wrong in believing America will eventually embrace diesel powered cars as Europe does. Like it or not — and yes I know many diesel fans find this absurd — Americans have a bad perception of diesel. Whenever I've brought this up to my friends driving German brand diesel cars, they scoff at the ignorance of Americans.

Now, as the electric car prepares to take off, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen need to fully embrace the potential of electrification in the years to come. Reithofer is right to believe the industry will need more than electric cars, but in the meantime, it needs to plan for battery powered cars. The Megacity models won't be out until 2013, and by then there will be plenty of competition in the electric car market.

But as we get ready to see the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF his showrooms, keep in mind the real race goes beyond electric cars. It's the race to see who will have the most options to power cars and trucks in the future, and which one of those options will take off.


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