BMW and Daimler were not exactly friendly. Now they want to jointly shape the mobility of tomorrow – the competition in the US and China is too big.
Only a few minutes before the Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche sits on the stage. Then it breaks out of him: "Together we are stronger," and: "Sky is the limit!", He exclaims, only heaven sets the limits in this new collaboration. The man in the armchair next to it, Harald Krüger, BMW boss, nods, will immediately speak of this moment being remembered here in Berlin: If one will one day look back in ten years, then one would say: "That was an important one Day!"
In fact, what is happening here is at least very remarkable: Two of the toughest competitors in the auto industry are teaming up. Competitors, especially in the past two years were severely in the clinch. But common enemies bring them together again. And the two managers are celebrating this to a degree that was unthinkable just a few years ago.
The two companies are pooling their mobility services after months of discussions and antitrust reviews. In Germany, the car sharing offers Car2Go (Daimler) and DriveNow (BMW) are well known, which are now to be interconnected without much further delay under the name ShareNow. It's also about parking reservations by app – which is often used in the US, taxi surveys, the booking of electric charging stations and even the organization of metropolitan mobility, which is based less and less on the car. There are 60 million users already for the various services and it should be more quickly, it says at the appointment, which is quite appropriately committed in an unused subway tunnel under the Potsdamer Platz.
It is a race in which even a single Dax group is too small in itself
"We want to shape this transformation," says Zetsche, a billion euros will be made available for the time being. And Krüger confirms: "Dieter is absolutely right." The vision is that once all these "now" services "merge into a mobility offer with fully electric and self-propelled fleets" that autonomously recharge and park and are networked with other means of transport. The robot taxi, which rolls around within a few minutes in a click, has come closer, also because powerful companies from the USA and China are getting closer and closer to their destination. Travel service providers such as Lyft, Uber or Didi in China are working hard on this scenario with vehemence It is all lucrative because it does not need a driver, which costs money. Tech companies such as the Google subsidiary Waymo are developing the right hardware, ie robot cars, at high speed. It is a race in which even a single Dax group is too small in itself.
The fact that the two South German manufacturers are now merging makes sense: The corporate cultures are similar, at least similar to foreign competitors. With a good two million cars sold per year, you are similarly strong. And yet there was a tough conflict that made such a solemn engagement very unlikely. The development bosses of the German manufacturers used to sit together in the "Fünferkreis", eloquent standards and techniques. Maybe even to an extent that violates antitrust laws. In any case, Daimler has secretly reported to the authorities in 2014, which brought the company a kind of leniency status with a mitigation of punishment, so it should come to a penalty – currently runs the examination of the antitrust officers still. However, this has only become public in the summer of 2017, and soon afterwards officials searched the BMW headquarters. There you felt betrayed. "The trust is totally damaged," it said from the boardroom in Munich. The long-running shopping co-operations – with rather simple parts like belt tensioners – were immediately put on hold. In Stuttgart they blasphemed again over the oversized sensitivity of the Munich. Difficult months that are still not completely forgotten. There has been "one or the other conflict", says Krüger right at the beginning of this meeting.
The fact that these seem to have been overcome seems to have to do with two top managers who are not sitting on stage that day, but who are exceptionally good-humored at the coffee machine: Nicolas Peter, CFO at BMW, and Bodo Uebber, who is still his Counterpart at Daimler. With a telephone conversation between them that had come running. The joint appearance was so advantageous, especially when looking at the ever-increasing competition that they had negotiated despite the crisis: Three executives from BMW, three from Daimler met so every few weeks, sometimes in Stuttgart, sometimes in Munich and sometimes halfway in Ulm. If one financier says something, the other nods. Even more familiar, they act as the two CEOs.
And also another couple understood itself understandably very well: Klaus Fröhlich, Development Director at BMW, and his Daimler counterpart Ola Källenius, who should soon become Daimler CEO, commute also often on the southern rail. Their idea: The new closeness could also be used in research to counter the oversized competitors. These two managers are missing in the subway tunnel and their colleagues are weighing down on requests. But if nothing comes between, soon another chapter of the new partnership between Munich and Stuttgart will become known, the joint work on robotic car technologies. Even when it applies, one hears: Together one is stronger.