Tony Sesto on BMW’s strategy amidst COVID, and EV adoption in Australia

Unlike other markets around the world where BMW sales dropped, 2020 saw Australian sales for the German brand rise 0.9%.

The brand’s general manager for marketing, Tony Sesto, said in a Mumbrellacast interview to be published this afternoon that the country, and the brand, found itself in a very fortunate situation.

“We continue to be in a very good position in terms of how the economy was able to bounce back really quickly post some of the lockdowns that we faced last year, and this has translated into really healthy spending across so many industries in the auto sector, in particular luxury and BMW.”

BMW’s Tony Sesto

Despite COVID-19 setting in early last year, the luxury car market recovered quickly overall, with CommSec’s vehicle sales index recording 12,235 luxury cars sales in June 2020. That was double the figures of May 2020 and a significant recovery from April 2020, which recorded an 11-year low.

Sesto said that BMW responded well to the situation it found itself in and used it to bring forward some of the plans that were already in the pipeline.

“If anything, it was an opportunity for BMW to continue to build on the momentum and the strong position that the brand has in this market. What we did do however last year was respond to the way customers wanted to deal with us. And if anything, that meant a whole range of digital initiatives being fast-tracked.”

On whether COVID saw the auto brand reposition itself more generally and try to adapt to a changing marketplace, as hybrid-working increases and consumers move out of the city for more space, Sesto said it was more about where BMW was placing its messaging than the messaging itself that has changed.

“What it has done is change the weighting that we place across each of the different communication channels. We definitely spend a lot more now in digital marketing than we do across any of the other traditional channels. By doing this, it allows us to be more targeted to our audience, whether it’s existing customers or trying to reach out to new customers, which isn’t always that easy with some of the traditional channels.”

For a global luxury car brand, Sesto said that quite often the creative work consists of adapting a global campaign, pointing to a recent campaign promoting BMW’s new range of electric vehicles which features a collaboration with Coldplay.

“We introduce a local extension, which talks more to the Australian consumers, and for us that campaign is around performance being redefined. So not only do we take the positioning from a global perspective, we then adapt them to really suit our market.”

On the future of electric vehicles in Australia, Sesto mentioned that while BMW is at the forefront of driving this transition, with its two new EV models, the iX and the i4, more needs to be done to drive consumer appeal, and this may be achieved by looking beyond our own shores.

“A really good example is if you look at Norway, where over 75% of new car purchases in that country are electric. And the main contributing factor is government incentives. So I think if we want to see a real uptake in our market here in Australia, and certainly we do, I think government incentives and support packages that make electric vehicles more compelling and appealing will definitely play a key role.”

While a report last month found Australians have shown interest in electric vehicles in online searches, this is yet to translate into sales. However, Sesto asserted that purchasing an EV can give you just as much driving satisfaction.

“It’s really important to let consumers know that there doesn’t need to be a sacrifice between the ultimate driving machine and an electric vehicle. These electric vehicles are just as much fun to drive and enjoy as any other BMW in our range.”

Listen to the full conversation below (27.50)


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