Interview with Sergio Solero, Sales Director of BMW Italy – 2^nd Part

Sergio Solero

 …the first part.

Considering the above, the increase of taxation on the car should not be viewed as positive with respect to alternatives taxation on citizens?
The automotive industry is an asset for the economy. In terms of turnover, tax contribution, job-creation.
We believe that something in terms of taxation can be done to move the sector, although we are in a complex scenario like the present.

A few years ago, we presented to the institutions a study that we commissioned to the Bocconi University in Milan to offer a thorough review of the taxation of company cars. In fact, Italy has an old law much more penalizing of that in force in many other European countries. Italian companies, for example, can write off and deduct the 40% of VAT only while in the other markets it is possible to get up to 100%. Acting on the deductibility or on deductibility would be possible to stimulate the entire sector, allowing an increase in the structural market of about 100 000 units, with benefits for manufacturers, tax authorities and companies.

The company cars market, after all, is only 28% in Italy and is 36% in France, 57% in Germany, 53% in the UK and 40% in Spain. We believe there is room for improvement in this dimension, in everyone’s interest, tax authorities, employees and the economy.

How do you reconcile investment and activities that BMW is pursuing with i3 and i8, with the know-how that Toyota has got in the field of electric and hybrid vehicles? Don’t you see any overlap with Lexus and the agreements between the Japanese and Tesla? There will be developments on these issues in your opinion?
The BMW i project is strategic for us and is part of the core business of our brand. That is why last year we launched the new brand and from 2013 we will be on the market with the BMW i3 city car, followed in 2014 by the BMW i8 supercar.

BMW i is part of our holistic vision of sustainable mobility and demonstrates our integrated and eco-friendly approach to the mobility of the future, from clean production to recycling, from renewable energy used in the plants to the interconnection with other modes of transport. The agreement with Toyota comes from the common vision that we have on the mobility of the future and the value of innovation.
For the BMW Group’s strategic partners are essential.

Three are the key conditions of our agreement with Toyota: the common ground based on trust and commitment, creating a win-win situation, and the guarantee of independence for our group and the autonomy of our premium brands. That’s why we recently signed a new memorandum of understanding to expand and develop cooperation.

Are you more confident in hybrid or electric cars? And with what volumes and times?
BMW Group has a 360 ° view of the mobility of the future. Since 2007, with the launch of the BMW EfficientDynamics program we have given a clear picture of our future vision. We believe that we must act on three levels.

For the future we believe that the electrification (both in terms of hybrid cars full electric cars) could be a step forward and in this sense both our hybrid products (3 Series and 5 Series just launched) and the brand BMW i are testimonials of a real and precise commitment. For the long-term future, we believe that zero-emission cars are in the natural evolution of our business.

The scenarios forecasted and the studies agree that electric mobility in 2020 will represent between 5% and 15% of total sales. This means, however, that the combustion engine will continue to have a major and determining role for mobility and sustainability.
From our side, with EfficientDynamics, we are sure to be on the right way for the tomorrow’s customers.

Is it possible to hypothesize a car distribution without the dealer’s network?
In the recent years we have interacted constantly with the dealers because we believe they are essential for our success. That’s why we have supported them in the most difficult moments of the crisis, assuring them concessional credit lines and all our support from the commercial point of view, both in terms of field staff and support for initiatives, product launches, communication, management processes and customer satisfaction.

We have always said that we can count on a network of reliable partners, competent and well prepared that are an important asset for the company. We furtherly confirm this opinion in these difficult years. In any case it is clear now more than ever, that the complexity of business management requires a careful oversight of all business areas, new cars, used cars, aftersales, finance, with a significant increase in the level of management.

In this sense, we are restructuring the network, continuing the process of optimization that we have implemented in recent years to be present throughout the country with the best partners and the best possible organization, aiming at that goal, that is strategic for us, to be the best in terms customer satisfaction, both in sales and post sales for both brands, BMW and Mini. The tomorrow’s success in increasingly competitive scenarios is determined by the customers that we satisfy today, and that become faithful to our brands.

In this vision the dealers are our ambassadors in the territory.  I believe that the purchase or pre-purchase process is already moving towards the online channel. The final stage of the process will remain traditional for many years, especially in the Premium segment: before investing a significant amount of money customers want to touch the product.

And in our case, the best way to convince an undecided customer that the “Driving pleasure” is not just a slogan but a real interpretation in the development of our products, is to offer a test drive. At the moment the virtual reality cannot replace the real feeling!

What do you think about Social Media? What impact they have (or will have) on the automotive world? Manufacturers and dealers are ready for this great phenomenon? How do you act on this innovative channels?
We constantly look at the future.

We have to go to the places where we can meet the tomorrow’s customers: the social networks. The Facebook generation must be approached in a different way than traditional customers.

That’s why we have been paying attention to the dynamics of Facebook, Twitter and the blogs for more than 5 years. And the numbers prove it. BMW has more than 10 million of fans on Facebook, Mini has around 3 million of fans and Rolls-Royce has reached half a million. No other cars maker can boast so many fans all around the world.

(Translated by Raffaele Vincenti)

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