BMW prepares for "black swan" events

02 January 2013

BERLIN: BMW, the luxury automaker, is aiming to modify its corporate strategy during a period of growth, and thus insulate itself from any potential future “black swan” - or crisis - events.

Speaking to Der Spiegel, Norbert Reithofer, BMW's chief executive, admitted the austere climate in many Western countries, and slowing growth in emerging nations like India and China, made forecasting hard.

"I don't know what will happen in 2013," he stated. In response, BMW is trying to prepare for "black swan events", or unpredictable occurrences that can have a major impact on global companies.

Flexibility is essential in tackling such issues, to which end BMW has formulated an "anti-crisis" plan, including more tightly matching working hours in its plants with precise alterations in demand.

Similarly, the firm's factories are developing the capacity to switch between making different vehicles, say SUVs or sedans, as vacillations in the market dictate.

Enhancing its manufacturing capabilities in countries including the US, China and Brazil should also help protect it from currency fluctuations and duties on imports.

BMW's provisional estimates for 2012 suggest it will provide the firm's best ever annual sales figures, yielding around 1.8m deliveries.

Reithofer added that periods of success were better to proactively implement change, rather than reactively responding to events, although overcoming inertia is challenging. "That demands a lot of energy," he said.

Linde Group, an industrial conglomerate, has enjoyed a six-fold increase in its stock market value during the last decade, but recently approved a new cost-cutting drive attempting to save €900m in the next four years.

"It has never been more difficult than today to give a precise prediction of future economic development," said Wolfgang Reitzle, Linde Group's chief executive, meaning it is vital to "be prepared for the worst-case scenario."

While the firm is streamlining some aspects of its activity, it also recently acquired Lincare, its US counterpart, for €3.6bn, indicating "an entirely different kind of flexibility" than in previous years.

Data sourced from Der Spiegel; additional content by Warc staff