HOW WILL OUR INDIVIDUAL
B E N O I T
J A C O B
Our personal needs are changing and, as a result, so do the demands we place on our individual mobility requirements. Benoit Jacob is responsible for the design of the BMW i3 and BMW i8. He shares his experience of developing the individual mobility concept of tomorrow. —Starting with a blank canvas.
I N F R O N T O F A B L A N K
P I E C E O F P A P E R
Benoit Jacob has been Head of Design at BMW i, a sub-brand of BMW, since 2010. He pursues fully sustainable design approach, with a service offer that goes far beyond that of conventional cars. Benoit Jacobs’ life has been all about cars. At the age of just ten, he had already decided to become a car designer. It was a true calling.
I n t e r v i e w
Jacob, what sort of questions are at the front
of your mind when designing a car?
B E N O I T J A C O B
When we began working with BMW, our brief for the i3 and i8 models was quite unconventional. All technological aspects are pre-programmed, but we knew that we could only make progress in future mobility by leveraging the benefits offered by electromobility, lightweight construction or efficiency, for example. The focus was on exploring how we can change the rules a little. This is a dream job for a car designer: the world was my oyster. It’s like being given a blank canvas on which, with the help of our colleagues from engineering and marketing, we can design something almost completely new. Yes, the final product is still a car, but how is that then manufactured, designed and so on? These are all very interesting questions.
And what answers did you come up with?
By their very nature, the two concepts are actually completely different. The i3 is more rational, whereas the i8 is a sports car and emotive to its core. However, despite these conceptual differences, the technology used in both is almost identical. Like a brother and sister, only with contrasting characteristics.
Don’t the two concepts fulfil very different functions
to other cars? They have been conceived as more
than just a means of getting from A to B. If you buy
an i3, for example, you can borrow a 5 Series for
That is a special offer as part of our mobility package. It is about more than just a car now, but instead about a mobility product—with the car obviously remaining at its very heart, encompassed by a range of further offers to offset the compromises we have to make when buying the car. For example, with the i3 we have developed the 360° programme which offers solutions to problems relating to battery charging as well as mobility for longer journeys. What do we do if a customer says something like: “No, this is my only car. I want to go away somewhere with my family perhaps once a year, but don’t want to fly there. I have to go by car because I want to take something with me or need to transport something”?
How central was the introduction of the “Drive Now”
car sharing scheme to your work?
We have been aware of its significance for a while now. Car sharing simply cannot be ignored. There are many groups of people who find that they still need a car, but it doesn’t always meet all their needs. Different social and age groups have differing individual mobility requirements. The need to own a car is no longer as widespread as it was among our parents’ generation. This shift is one consequence of social evolution. How we live our lives has changed too. Education, work, marriage, having children, buying cars, home ownership and so on—this is no longer set in stone. These days there are so many more opportunities: travel, hobbies, free time, dining out. These represent great challenges for carmakers in comparison to before: modern life offers us so many more possibilities, and the automotive industry must compete with these. Now, we all talk about “experiences” and “moments” we would like to have rather than products or consumption. The era of a product-oriented, consumer society is over: we now live in an experience-oriented society. In line with this, the competition has ramped up. There are ever more people who are certainly aware that they need a car, but realise that car sharing is enough to fulfil their requirements. In the end, when you sit down and work everything out, you realise that car sharing offers all the advantages of a car and individual mobility, without the inconvenience of having to look for parking spaces.