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  • BMW CFO Brushes Off Apple Car Threat: ‘I Sleep Very Peacefully’
    Bloomberg

    BMW CFO Brushes Off Apple Car Threat: ‘I Sleep Very Peacefully’

    (Bloomberg) -- BMW AG has a message for Apple Inc.: bring it on.The German luxury-car maker is well placed as electrification and alternatives to private vehicle ownership transform the auto industry, Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter said in an interview. He is undaunted by reports that the world’s most valuable company could enter the car business.“I sleep very peacefully,” Peter said when asked about Apple. “Competition is a wonderful thing -- it helps motivate the others. We’re in a very strong position and we want to remain in a leading position of the industry.”The comments are the latest show of confidence by BMW after a year in which it watched Tesla Inc. seize a commanding market value lead over incumbent car companies. Chief Executive Officer Oliver Zipse said last month the Model 3 maker will have a hard time continuing to grow as quickly as established auto manufacturers mount counter attacks with more EV offerings.Speculation that Apple is working on an autonomous electric vehicle has added to concerns that carmakers face formidable threats from more technologically adept disruptors. Peter, a 30-year veteran of BMW, believes premium manufacturers’ higher returns will furnish them with the billions of dollars of cash needed to plow into new technologies.While German carmakers’ cash flows have markedly improved since the start of the pandemic, Tesla and others have tapped into the market’s enthusiasm for all-electric car companies by selling stock. Manufacturers are reacting to the message capital markets have sent them with unprecedented moves: Daimler AG is spinning off its truck unit and Volkswagen AG is considering a separate listing of Porsche.Peter isn’t inclined to make rash decisions. While Bloomberg News reported last year that Uber Technologies Inc. was considering a purchase of BMW and Daimler’s ride-hailing venture, and that the two carmakers were exploring a sale of their jointly owned parking-app business, the CFO said the company needs to maintain a presence in services that offer alternatives to vehicle ownership.“We won’t exit digital mobility services,” he said. “Especially in inner-urban areas, we have changed our driving behaviors. We’re preparing for the access that private vehicles have to these cities to be reduced -- that is why we need these mobility services.”BMW and Daimler combined their car-sharing and ride-hailing units in early 2019, pledging to pour more than 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) into the operation they named Your Now. The automakers have held talks to sell their parking business to European rival EasyPark Group, people familiar with the matter said last month.While BMW could sell parts of individual businesses, Peter said mobility apps will play a key role in keeping the carmaker connected with tech-savvy young consumers.BMW will continue to produce combustion-engine cars along with electric versions for the foreseeable future, Peter said, even as rivals such as Ford Motor Co. and Volvo Cars set end dates for selling vehicles that run on gasoline or diesel.“We need to be in a position to move with the market,” Peter said. “There are announcements coming left, right and center, and I think the important thing is being able to react to customer demand.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    SoftBank-Backed Mapbox Names New CEO to Go After Carmakers

    (Bloomberg) -- Mapbox Inc., which makes mapping tools used by Instacart Inc. and Snap Inc., appointed a new chief executive officer who will focus on expanding sales to automakers and logistics providers.The SoftBank-backed company has promoted Peter Sirota, a former executive at Amazon.com Inc.’s Web Services business who joined Mapbox three years ago, to the top job. He replaces Eric Gundersen, who has been with the company since its start in 2010 and now becomes chief strategy officer and chairman of the board.The San Francisco-based startup is taking on Alphabet Inc.’s Google Maps as it tries to establish itself as the center of car navigation systems. Mapbox inked a deal with BMW Group for in-car navigation last year. It’s looking to unveil deals with a half-dozen additional carmakers this year, said a person familiar with the plans.Sirota will also need to eventually return the company to break-even. Earlier in its lifespan, Mapbox turned a modest profit by focusing on nonprofits and governments. The levels of investment required for the auto and logistics industries took Mapbox into the red in recent years. Still, the company has raised about $150 million from SoftBank and is valued at more than $1 billion, said the person familiar with the business who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Revenue is on track to exceed $100 million this year, the person said.A main competitor of Mapbox, as Sirota sees it, is the smartphone. About 700 million people interact with a Mapbox service each month, he said. Google Maps has more than 1 billion monthly users.Mapbox can be better than a smartphone app by using information from a car’s sensors, Sirota said. For example, if a vehicle is running out of fuel, it can highlight the location of nearby gas stations. For electric cars, it can incorporate range data and plan routes based on the location of charging stations.One of Sirota’s goals is to establish the car as the main input for directions before people form a lasting habit of pulling up Google or Apple maps on their phones. “Now is a very important moment,” Sirota said. “This opportunity has a window in it, so we have to get there fast.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Apple Partner Foxconn to Form EV Partnership With Fisker
    Bloomberg

    Apple Partner Foxconn to Form EV Partnership With Fisker

    (Bloomberg) -- Foxconn Technology Group will develop an electric vehicle with Fisker Inc., part of the manufacturer’s efforts to boost its automotive capabilities at a time when technology companies including its main customer, Apple Inc., are looking to expand in vehicles.The car will be built by Foxconn, targeted at multiple markets including North America, Europe, China and India, and sold under the Fisker brand, according to a joint statement from the companies Wednesday. Production is set to start in the fourth quarter of 2023.Fisker is looking to break new ground with its second planned model. The startup plans to make a vehicle that doesn’t fit into an existing segment, like a sedan or SUV. Its partnership with Foxconn, a Taiwanese smartphone maker which is new to the auto business, is pinned on hopes that the collaboration will bring innovative manufacturing.“The auto industry is very stale,” company founder Henrik Fisker said in an interview. “We still talk about adopting the Toyota manufacturing system,” referring to a production and logistics concept that was developed decades ago.Fisker plans to design and market the vehicle while Foxconn will supply the skateboard chassis and manage supply chain and assembly. That’s asking a lot of a company that has never built cars in large volume before.“I have full confidence that they can do this and maybe have ideas that are outside the box,” Fisker said.Shares of Fisker rose 39% to a record of $22.58 at the close in New York. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the main listed arm of Foxconn, advanced as much as 5% in Taipei.Foxconn in October introduced its first-ever EV chassis and a software platform aimed at helping automakers bring models to the market faster. This month, Hon Hai Chairman Young Liu said two light vehicles based on the Foxconn platform will be unveiled in the fourth quarter. Foxconn is also planning to help launch an electric bus around the same time.The Taiwanese company is expected to build more than 250,000 vehicles annually for the Fisker partnership, according to the statement. Foxconn may choose to make some of those cars in the U.S., a person familiar with the matter said. Following Wednesday’s memorandum of understanding, the two sides said they will enter a formal agreement in the second quarter of 2021.Fisker is the second battery-powered car venture founded by its namesake founder, a longtime auto designer. Its debut model, the Ocean electric SUV, is scheduled to start production in late 2022. Henrik Fisker’s first venture, Fisker Automotive, filed for bankruptcy in 2013.The model built by Foxconn will be an all-new type of vehicle, Fisker said. He wouldn’t classify it as a sedan or an SUV. Its design will defy segmentation the way the Volkswagen AG did with the Beetle and BMW AG did with the all-new Mini that came out in 2001, he said.Fisker got the idea of the planned vehicle when he was reading about Apple’s plans for a car. He said he began sketching what he thought a tech company would build if one went into the car business.“It will be like nothing you’ve seen before,” Fisker said.Foxconn is the second major manufacturer Fisker has announced a partnership with since reaching a deal to go public last year. In October, the EV startup said Magna International Inc. would help it build the Ocean SUV.In January, Foxconn signed a manufacturing deal with embattled Chinese electric-vehicle startup Byton Ltd. with the aim to start mass production of the Byton M-Byte by the first quarter of 2022. A week later, Foxconn and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. announced they were joining forces to provide production and consulting services to global automotive enterprises.Amid reports of Apple’s car project gaining momentum, Foxconn has bulked up its automotive capabilities that could make it a major contender to make cars for its largest customer.With development work still at an early stage, Apple will take at least half a decade to launch an autonomous electric vehicle, people with knowledge of the efforts have told Bloomberg News. That suggests the company is in no hurry to decide on potential auto-industry partners.(Updates with Hon Hai shares in seventh paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.