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Luxury shifts up a gear

BMW Australia CEO Vikram Pawah explains why modern luxury is highly emotional and all a question of attitude.

Today, luxury is defined by factors such as personal gain and the emotional journey rather than owning statement pieces from brands founded on tradition, craftsmanship and heritage.

Once tangible, status is now the opposite; less about ‘what I have’ and much more about ‘who I am’ – for example, more environmentally friendly, creative and connected. A person who seeks out a luxury product today knows what they want and is looking for a very personal experience.

The reasons behind this shift are well-documented. Wealth is no longer a privilege of the older generation; something accumulated over years, even decades, of hard work. As such, we’ve seen the average age of a BMW customer reduce considerably to around 45.

As we grow more interconnected in this digital age, we’re always ‘on’. Time – and how we spend it – is increasingly precious. Analysts report that affluent consumers are also conscious of the negative impacts their consumption has on the environment, society and their health. Therefore, another aspect of modern luxury is indulgence without guilt.

For the luxury automotive industry, in particular, this has led to big changes. I often joke that life used to be much simpler. In the past, customers were happy with three things: beautiful design, comfort and good handling. And while today’s BMW driver is still every bit as discerning – buying into luxury because they understand the amount of investment in research, engineering, craftsmanship and expertise that goes into producing a luxury brand – modern expectations include sustainability, an electric component and super-connectivity.

“A person who seeks out a luxury product today knows what they want and is looking for a very personal experience.”

At BMW, this means combining old and new to push the boundaries of design and technology. We look at the traditions that established the classic ideas of luxury as much as we look to the future of what luxury can be. We know that the BMW driver will always want a car with a sporty and dynamic character but will also increasingly look to what pioneering steps we are doing for the future.

Arguably one of the biggest transformations is the shift towards electromobility. BMW has played a leading role in this field since launching the fully electric BMW i3 in 2013. Fast-forward to May this year, when we unveiled the first-ever MINI plug-in hybrid. Next year we’ll introduce the first-ever all-electric MINI. We currently offer a range of 12 electrified models and by 2023 this number will increase to 25 electrified models – more than half of which will be fully electric.

For a luxury brand, however, it’s not only about launching new products. It’s about the entire brand experience: how you position yourself, how you interact and how you provide your customers with an innovative, engaging and unique experience that makes them feel good. For this reason, we are investing heavily in our brand’s promise: ‘Joy’ from the start of your purchase through the entire customer journey.

We have a holistic strategy that not only focuses on product but rather D+ACES (Design + Autonomous driving, Connectivity, Electrification and Services) throughout the driving experience. In the future, drivers will be able to choose whether they want to be driven autonomously – in what we call EASE Mode – or drive themselves – in BOOST Mode. ‘EASE your Life – BOOST your Moment’: this is the basis for the design of every new BMW model.

We view design as key: beyond shape and form, it creates experiences. The automobile is no longer just a ‘vehicle’; it can be a place for relaxation, interaction, entertainment and concentration. At the same time, it can also be the ultimate driving machine, enabling customers to experience new aspects of driving dynamics. The car has been transformed into a new kind of living space dedicated to people’s needs and wants.

BMW is a premium brand that happens to build cars, it’s in the business of providing luxury experiences. As important as the intrinsic details of the vehicle are, it’s the overall experience that has won over customers and earned us a spot on the best global brand rankings.

Our goal is to keep shaping the future of personal mobility, ensuring there is a continued emphasis on innovation, quality, craftsmanship, individuality and luxury.

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