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2023 Tsinghua Students Dialogue with Board Members: Oliver Zipse - Automotive Industry in Transition



Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of the BMW Group and member of the Tsinghua School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM) Advisory Board, along with his team, visited Tsinghua SEM on October 19, 2023. Zipse delivered a lecture titled "Automotive Industry in Transition" and interacted with more than 160 MBA students on-site. During the session, he shared his expertise in electric vehicles, hydrogen energy, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, corporate innovation culture, brand image, and strategies for sustainable development.

Global Bridge into the Chinese Market

As chairman of a multinational automotive manufacturer, Zipse explained the strategic significance of the Chinese market for BMW's global initiative. BMW entered the Chinese market some 30 years ago, and has developed alongside the Chinese automotive industry. It has a production base and extensive research and development capabilities in China. Globally, the BMW Group employs 150,000 staff, of which 30,000 are in China. This underscores BMW Group's unwavering commitment to sustainable growth in the Chinese market. Zipse said academia and multinational corporations have pivotal roles to play in building bridges around the world. He said BMW takes great pride in being a part of this bridge-building process and is dedicated to providing exceptional service to customers and to connecting China with the world through technology and digitalization.

Digital Innovation for an Intelligent Mobility Future

Digital transformation is a key topic when discussing global connectivity. Responding to questions from Tsinghua SEM students about "Digital Intelligence and Autonomous Driving," Zipse pointed out the role of digital technology in the global automotive industry. He praised China's leading position in digital intelligence, stating, "What moves China today moves the world tomorrow." China, as a pioneer in digital technology, provides inspiration to the whole world. The highly digitized lifestyle of Chinese consumers encourages modern businesses to continually learn and improve, ensuring that product operating systems and accompanying digital services remain current and competitive.

Zipse said customers have higher expectations for the quality and performance of BMW products since the company is considered a premium manufacturer. Particularly in the use of automated driving functions, users have higher expectations for the safety of vehicles. The widespread use of autonomous driving will not happen as rapidly as many imagine, he said; instead, it will go through five longer stages. In the coming years, people will experience the middle stages of semi-autonomous driving. The legal and safety implications of fully autonomous driving in urban environments will require continuous attention from the automotive industry.

Building Toward a Sustainable Future

Sustainable development is a topic of great concern in the automotive industry. In addressing enthusiastic questions from students about new energy vehicles and sustainable development strategies, Zipse emphasized BMW's vision for full electrification and sustainable mobility through innovative initiatives. He expects electric models to account for around 25 percent of the group’s total vehicles sales in 2025, and that this will reach 50 percent before 2030. Zipse said electrification will not completely replace traditional internal combustion engines in the immediate term; rather, both will develop together. Addressing consumer concerns about charging infrastructure, Zipse said the group is constructing public charging facilities to meet the growing demand for electric vehicles.

New energy vehicles in the automotive industry will help to address global climate change, he said. Continuously reducing the carbon emissions throughout a product's lifecycle and facilitating environmentally-friendly travel requires careful supply chain management. Zipse emphasized the importance of environmentally-friendly travel for sustainable development, but noted that sustained profitability is crucial to maintain the long-term technological investment on which sustainable development strategies depend. The automotive industry should take firms steps toward a sustainable future and strive to provide customers with greener and more efficient travel options, he said.


During the Q&A session with students, Zipse spoke about hot topics in the automotive industry, such as supply chain issues, sales models, transportation systems, and artificial intelligence. As the class drew to a close, the Tsinghua SEM MBA program presented Zipse with a "Micro Landscape Model of the Old Gate of Tsinghua," a present to represent Tsinghua University's advocacy for green and sustainable development. The model, based on the Old Gate of Tsinghua with an integrated BMW i8 model, was adorned with everlasting green flowers. At the end of the class, Zipse took a group photo with students to memorialize the exchange.

Source: MBA Education Center

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