German company BMW is bidding to transform the way it builds vehicles by becoming the first carmaker to use carbon fiber to mass produce its products. Carbon fiber -- which at its raw form looks like very thin rice noodles -- is touted to be tougher than steel and BMW will use it for the passenger frame of the i3 electric car, which is now on sale in Germany and will be sold around the world in the next few months.
BMW's production move represents the first effort to mass produce a car made mostly of carbon fiber. It also the biggest shift in auto production since the 1980s, when the first all-aluminum car frames were built. BMW's shift to carbon fiber production was conceptualized six years ago, when Norbert Reithofer, who was the newly appointed chief executive then, assessed trends affecting the auto industry.
He came into conclusion that increased environmental awareness might prompt stiffer emissions regulations that could make the future of autobahn cruisers like the 5-series sedan unsustainable. "Looking forward to 2020, we saw threats to our business model," Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner -- head of strategic planning at the time -- told Bloomberg in an interview in Munich.
He remarked that they had to find a way to bring models like the 6 series, 7 series and X5 into the future. The i3 was conceived as BMW tries to live up with its "ultimate driving machine" claim, since it needs to offset harmful emissions with a viable electric vehicle for growing cities.