TIME BMW: A Company on the Edge

See Inside BMW’s Secret Design Lab

A rare look at what happens in one of the world's most important research and development centers

For decades, BMW has advertised its vehicles as “the ultimate driving machine.” The meaning of that phrase has started to slip. In an age of connected technology, ultimate driving machines automatically brake for their passengers in emergencies or beam content from mobile phones and tablets as much as they may accelerate quickly or handle nimbly.

That puts BMW, the world’s top-selling premium automaker by sales volume, in a difficult position. It must maintain its reputation for driving dynamics while also catering to changing consumer tastes—like better fuel efficiency and more advanced technology. And it is trying to do so with competitors like Audi and Mercedes-Benz nipping at its heals. Brands ranging from Toyota to Hyundai are also trying to sell more premium vehicles.

Last year, worldwide BMW sales rose 9.5% to 1.81 million cars, while Mercedes-Benz deliveries jumped 13% to 1.65 million vehicles. Volkswagen-owned Audi posted an 11% increase to 1.74 million cars. Global demand for premium cars has rebounded as the U.S. economy recovered from the recession and consumers in developing economies, such as China, continued to buy high-end products.

Harald Krueger, who took over as CEO after the group’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 13, is trying to continue expanding BMW’s lineup while maintaining its profitability. As part of a strategy, partly overseen by the 49-year-old executive since late-2007, BMW has been aiming to make 30% more vehicles with the same number of workers while trying to reduce production costs per vehicle by raising economies of scale in components, drive systems and modules. Now, Krueger must do the same as cars grow more complex and fuel-efficient.

One of BMW’s little-known assets lies about an hour north of Los Angeles, in Newbury Park, Calif. Designworks, a consultancy owned by the German giant, is charged with designing future vehicles, exploring emerging technologies and experimenting with new materials, such as carbon fiber a major—and costly—part of BMW’s strategy to make its cars more fuel efficient in the future. In this video series, TIME looks at how BMW is trying to deal with the difficulties of a ever-more crowded, ever-changing market.

TIME global trade

Watch Ian Bremmer Discuss America’s Role as World Superpower

As the world's only superpower, Bremmer argues that the United States must look towards the next stage of China's rise

In his new book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World, TIME editor-at-large and president of Eurasia group Ian Bremmer discusses the three choices the United States can make about its role in the world. He characterizes the choices, each with its unique benefits and consequences, as “Indispensable America,”“Moneyball America” and “Independent America.”

TIME

Watch Live: President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Speak at White House

Obama and Shinzo Abe are holding a news conference

TIME BMW: A Company on the Edge

Exclusive: Go Inside the Future of Legendary Automaker BMW

See how the automaker is breaking boundaries

BMW has been making cars since 1916. Almost 100 years later, the German automaker has remained a relevant player in a constantly innovating field. It faces stiff competition from fellow luxury carmakers Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, but in 2014 BMW regained its spot as the top-selling luxury car brand in the U.S. (reclaiming first place from Mercedes, which held it in 2013).

But BMW can’t be complacent if it wants to stay on top. The automotive industry is confronting revolutionary change on multiple fronts—meaning that BMW will have to reckon with alternative fuel sources and developing new technology for highly automated cars, among other advances.

In this five-part series, TIME explores these challenges to show how BMW is turning to data, technology and the Cloud to stay competitive.

TIME Healthcare

Inside the Hospital Room of the Future

Go inside the hospital room of the future with Andrew Quirk, a senior vice president at Skanska, to find out what inpatient care might look like by the year 2020

TIME TIME 100 Gala

Watch Ballerina Misty Copeland Explain How ‘Ballet Found Me’

"I had no idea that was going to be my truth."

Ballerina Misty Copeland spoke about her humble beginnings and overcoming professional and personal challenges in a toast at the TIME 100 gala on Tuesday.

Copeland, who was the only African American ballerina at the American Ballet Theater during her first decade there, said she felt a calling to dance in unlikely circumstances. “As a 13-year-old growing up in Los Angeles, California, this very diverse place, I was living in a motel with my single parent, with my mother and five of my siblings. And that’s when ballet found me,” she said.

The author and dancer, who was named one of the world’s most influential people in the 2015 TIME 100, said that one of her major influences was Raven Wilkinson, the first African American ballerina to dance in an elite international dance company, and now her neighbor in New York City.

“She’s become an incredible role model for me, and someone who has sparked this curiosity for me to try and open up the doors for the history of African American ballerinas that I feel is just not told.”

TIME TIME 100 Gala

Watch Empire Creator Lee Daniels Give a Moving Toast to His Mom

"This evening is for my mom, because she knew that I was destined for something"

Director and producer Lee Daniels credits his success to a special woman in his life — his mom, Clara Watson, whom he toasted with a moving address at the TIME 100 gala on Tuesday.

The creator of the hit television series Empire told attendees his life as a gay African American man could have gone very differently were it not for the support of his mother. “My mom knew early on that I was gay. And she knew that I had to get out of the ghetto,” Daniels said. He acknowledged that many of his friends have died from HIV and AIDS. “That I don’t have HIV is a miracle from God.”

The 2015 TIME 100 honoree — who was feted by Oprah Winfrey on this year’s list — concluded by asking his mother to stand up to a round of applause from the audience. “This evening is for my mom, because she knew that I was destined for something,” he said. “What that something is, I don’t know. But I love her from the bottom of my heart.”

TIME TIME 100 Gala

Watch Jorge Ramos Pay Tribute to Young Immigrants

The television anchors calls them, 'my real heroes'

Fusion and Univision News anchor Jorge Ramos paid tribute to young immigrants hoping for a chance at the American dream in a moving speech at the TIME 100 Gala.

“It is very difficult to be an immigrant because you have to leave everything,” Ramos said. “You leave your home, your family, your friends, your culture, your language, sometimes your soul.”

He concluded his remarks with a toast to young people brought to the country as children who are battling to secure access to higher education. “My real heroes. The dreamers. You know, they are young, undocumented students who came to this country when they were very young…Because Congress has done absolutely nothing in the last decade on immigration, the dreamers decided to take this on themselves.”

Ramos, a TIME 100 honoree in 2015, also toasted the group of Mexican journalists who, “have denounced corruption at the highest levels of the Mexican government” and paid tribute to political prisoners in Venezuela, including the leader of the opposition in Venezuela, Leopoldo Lopez.

TIME TIME 100 Gala

Watch the Bring Back Our Girls Founder’s Emotional Speech: ‘You Can’t Move On’

"Whatever we choose to do, we can accomplish. Let’s choose to bring our girls back"

“Bring Back Our Girls” co-founder Obiageli Ezekwesili lamented Tuesday night that hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist group Boko Haram last year are still missing, during an emotional speech at the TIME 100 gala.

“How can we be in a world where technology can find you in your bedroom and today we have nothing on the matter of our 219 girls?” the TIME 100 honoree said in remarks that brought some attendees to tears.

“There’s absolutely nothing that the God I believe in cannot do,” she said. “But the same God has given man and woman the power of choice. Whatever we choose to do, we can accomplish. Let’s choose to bring our girls back, please?”

Earlier in the night she called on President Obama to do more to help find the girls.

“If he could get Osama bin Laden, he could get our girls,” she told TIME.

Watch her entire TIME 100 gala speech below.

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