Robb Reader: Pieter Nota on the philosophy behind BMW’s luxury class vehicles

The task of driving conversation about luxury into new realms is one that excites Pieter Nota – Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Customer, Brands, Sales. His day-to-day focus is on how the brand’s mindset caters to a smart global audience through the newest range of luxury BMW vehicles. BMW’s success, he says, comes down to the sheer joy of being behind the wheel of one of its high-end vehicles. Cars, he says, are not the marque’s only commodity: BMW deals in emotion.

Where do the BMW luxury models fit into the marque’s canon?

The company has invested a lot in the past year to renew and refresh our product portfolio, and part of this is to step up in the highest segment of the luxury market. To complement our 7 Saloon we recently added the 8 Coupé and 8 Convertible. The addition of the X7, which is our new model in the luxury sports activity segment, tops our very successful X model range.

What role does manufacturing digitisation, or ‘Industry 4.0’, play in your company?

With Industry 4.0 we can offer our customers more ways to personalise their car – and it also means we can increase the flexibility and quality of our manufacturing. In our plant in Dingolfing in Bavaria, we’re increasingly using ‘wearables’ such as ProGloves, which automatically scan the parts they’re handling. Soon we’ll be introducing ‘uncommon product’ alerts, which cause [employees’] smartwatches to vibrate when a car with uncommon spec is coming along on the line, so they react accordingly.

Do you concur that in future we will share products rather than own them?

I think we’ll have both. If you look at personal mobility, of course car-sharing is far more likely in urban areas with good public transport than it is in rural areas. But that means that car ownership or long-term leasing will remain normal for many of our customers. And let’s not forget – owning one of our products is an emotional experience for many people.

What makes the 8 Series Coupé (pictured) so unique?

The design and, of course, the performance. The BMW 8 Series Coupé is the first car we’ve ever developed first for the racetrack and then for the road. And that’s something you notice when you get behind the wheel! Its unique combination of exciting sportiness and exquisite, modern luxury makes it, as far as I’m concerned, the most beautiful, intelligent, powerful and convincing luxury coupé in the world.

My best piece of advice is…

Stick to the facts.

What’s your dream visit to a never-before-visited city?

I’m very curious so I’d enjoy having a really good look around, ideally from the driving seat of an i8 Roadster with the roof down. I’d want to go to Sydney – I’ve never been. My first stop would be the amazing Opera House, with its totally unique design, which is something that’s always fascinated me.

What makes a good basis for long-term success?

Despite today’s pressure to “change or be changed”, it’s really important to stay true to the brand. For BMW that’s pretty clear: Sheer Driving Pleasure. Joy has been at the centre of our brand for decades and that means our focus is always on our customers.

What role does functionality play when it comes to luxury products?

Functionality is something you need to have, luxury is something you want to have. Our vehicles bring those travelling in them to their destination safely, reliably and in comfort. But our products also offer so much more: an emotional experience, a sporty and precise drive, exciting design, exclusive interior, thrilling engine sound. That’s the kind of luxury we’re proud to create.

How does BMW make a link between well-being and wellness and its vehicles?

It has a lot to do with design and the materials we use. We always ask ourselves, “When you enter our car, how should you feel?” Entering an 8 Series Coupé is like stepping into a made-to-measure suit – you feel very well dressed in it.

What is most likely to spoil a good idea?

People whose response to ideas is “Yes, but…”

Tradition or innovation?

In our highly dynamic and fast-moving world, I’d choose innovation. For us as a technology-based company, innovation and productivity are the main ways we can retain relevance for our customers. But within that, I’m a firm believer there is no future without a past, so I also value tradition highly

How important is sustainability for BMW?

Sustainability is an essential element for future success – for the BMW Group and for society in general. We understand the challenges and are addressing them. We’re developing innovative mobility solutions, thereby creating added value for our customers, our company and society.

What’s your most precious personal luxury?