Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) is spending $100 million to gain an edge on German luxury rivals by entering the commodities business.
BMW is building its own carbon fiber factory, the first carmaker to do so, to secure supply of the lightweight material and lower expenses by refining the production process. Even though carbon fiber has cost 20 times as much as steel, BMW is embracing the material to reduce the weight of its electric cars and counteract the added heft of their batteries.
Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi have joined BMW’s pursuit of the material, which is 50 percent lighter than steel, as they strive to meet tighter environmental rules. BMW has partnered with SGL Carbon SE (SGL), the only Europe- based producer of the material, to build the plant, prompting VW to buy 9.9 percent of SGL to ensure its own access. The battle has made SGL the world’s most expensive carbon-fiber company.