Harald Gottsche – New CEO of BMW Group, San Luis Potosí Plant
Given the new challenges and circumstances that the automotive sector is experiencing in our country, the BMW plant located in San Luis Potosí appointed a new CEO, Harald Gottsche, who gives us first-hand the vision for the future of the German brand in Mexico.
Under your new leadership, what are the growth objectives and goals that will be pursued at BMW SLP?
We have four pillars that support our objectives for the following years: performance, growth, leadership in technology and sustainability.
In the first, we will try to maintain quality in all production processes, and I can say that, to achieve this, we have the best work plant in Mexico, which ranks in the first places in terms of performance. Another important point that I consider relevant is permanent efficiency [inside and outside the plant]. Our industry is one of the most competitive and efficient, so we constantly seek to improve our processes and continue to be leaders in it.
Regarding growth, we can affirm that we are constantly pushing investment in our SLP plant. For example, in 2019 we assembled 25,000 vehicles; last year we assembled 55,000 units, and in 2021 we hope to assemble approximately 70,000 vehicles, while for the following years we plan to significantly increase these figures. The objective is to push the installed capacity in our plant.
In the case of technology leadership, we always seek the improvement and technological implementation of our products. In terms of processes, we have one of the most digitized plants in all of BMW, as we have “state-of-theart” technology and, of course, we have to take advantage of it by pushing 4.0 advances in all our production processes.
In the case of sustainability, we act as good collaborators [with the community]; we have a high commitment to society, paying special attention to education and providing clean water to small community areas around the SLP plant, among many other actions.
Also, I can affirm that 100% of our energy production is renewable, and we are reducing our CO2 mark, in order to help reduce the heat in the area. With this we sustain our goal of producing fully sustainable efficient vehicles, which is very important to our customers.
What do you think of the Mexican automotive sector and what is the position of BMW in our country?
BMW started in 1994 with a small assembly plant in Toluca, and since then we have maintained a steady progress over the years. We have come a long way. For its part, I believe that Mexico is a great country to build cars: there are many talented people with great skills, and this country also has a strong supply that, in our case, supplies our plant in Mexico, but also in Europe.
What is the international position that Mexico maintains at an automotive competitive level?
The automotive sector is very important for Mexico (approximately 3.5% of GDP comes from this sector). Here at our plant, almost 90% of our production is destined for export, not only to the United States, but also to markets such as Australia, Japan and Europe. Our industry is very competitive and is always looking to improve by implementing new technologies, as is the case with digitization that I mentioned to improve [production] processes. But, as an additional comment, I must say that we should not trust ourselves.
Let me explain: our sector is undergoing significant changes, and we will see in the coming years a transformation of the industry in many international markets as we will move from internal combustion cars to electric ones.
This implies a radical change that represents a great opportunity, which the Mexican economy could take advantage of and benefit from if it knows how to lead this change.
At the same time, this represents a risk to that we’ll have to face: we need [as an industry] new allies, new retailers, specialized suppliers for electric motors. … As can be seen with this simple sample, these changes represent many opportunities, but also many risks.
Speaking of challenges, what are the ones facing BMW SLP under the new normal scheme?
[At BMW] we have talked a lot about it because in Mexico there have been more than 200,000 deaths while in Germany there are more than 65,000, so it is a great challenge for everyone.
In particular, we have done a lot to keep our people working safely. On the one hand, we have remote work measures in office work (there are people who have not visited the plant in nine months, for example); it is surprising how much work we have accomplished doing home office …
On the other hand, in the case of work in the plant and workshop, we have made sure to maintain a clean and completely disinfected environment. The precautions begin from the moment our employees leave their home, thanks to having a bus system, along with the mandatory use of masks, security filters at the entrance, temperature measurement, signaling the direction of movement in work areas, limiting the quantity of people indoors, separation of places and work stations to maintain a healthy distance, as well as the use of plexiglass shields, having additional stations to wash hands and many more, all this to guarantee a safe work environment. There have been at least 30 initiatives that we are executing throughout the plant.
Of course, when new cases come up, each one has been given timely treatment and monitoring since its origin, by monitoring who enters the plant, who travels to high-risk areas in Mexico; we identify who is infected thanks to units of internal detection and, of course, where it was moved inside the plant to clean these spaces and prevent further infections.
So, the motto “Safety First” is something very important at BMW…
Safety is first because our employees are the most important. We do not see them as an “asset” that increases our costs (in the event that someone is infected, we do not fire them). Of course, we must implement containment measures (such as having closed the plant for eight weeks last year), but we have not harmed their jobs because all our people are the most valuable thing we have.
What development opportunities will the SLP plant have in the coming years?
It is a completely digitally designed plant that uses digital technology in all its aspects. It is a very flexible plant, for example, since our production lines can assemble different models and sizes of vehicles, at the same time that it is possible to attend to specific design orders sent by our clients. This flexibility also allows us not to lower the volume of production, which is one of our long-term strategies.
In the case of human capital, when we started, we had 120 experts brought from Europe, now this number remains below 40 as we increase the number of specialists and local leaders. If you see our organization chart, the strategic positions are occupied by local talents.
In particular, what does the USMCA represent for BMW SLP?
So far, I can affirm that the USMCA is an important regulatory framework to operate from Mexico in tandem with exports to the United States and the supply chain, which gives a lot of stability. But I must add that not everything depends on the USMCA, since our plant exports to different parts of the world outside of North America. We export 50,000 cars to Australia and the same to Japan, for example, so not everything is USMCA for us.
In short, does the future look bright for the BMW SLP plant?
That’s right. Not only for the plant and the company in general, but also for all of San Luis Potosí and its economic growth. We like to be an active “partner” and actively help the local society