Dave Leggett | 18 March 2005
I had an interesting couple of days in Munich earlier this week. The BMW financial results conference was a little bit predictable to be honest. Some of the announced figures had already been released and we pretty well knew what to expect. It was one of those set-piece affairs and pretty big, with journalists from all over the world, though mainly Europe, present in force – invited to attend by national BMW units (there were maybe six of us from Britain).
The extended programme laid on by BMW was worthwhile though. I picked up some useful info for future use from a look at BMW Group’s recycling facility and a tour of the Landshut plant where they make the aluminium crankcase for the BMW 3-litre 6-cylinder and 4.4 litre V8 diesel engines. To see the sand casting operation itself (gravity casting with molten aluminium poured into sand casts) up close was fascinating.
Sand casting is one of those thousands of years old industrial processes that still works and that’s quite an awesome thought. Inevitably and despite the company’s best efforts, it was not the most pleasant of working environments though – very hot and the air wasn’t exactly pleasant. I hope the guys who work in these places get decently recompensed.
The recycling facility almost brought tears to the eye initially. It is where BMW Group sends its own test and research models for destruction – and in the process learns about recycling. By recycling today’s models they can establish the recycling issues for the cars that are being sold now that will be relevant in fifteen years’ time.
So you can see nice new gleaming BMWs waiting in line for a process that concludes with the crusher and then the shredder (I’ll take that 6 away if you like, no need to scrap it mate, please, please!). But we were told that while the vehicles may look superficially good, underneath they are pretty messed up. One thing that impressed was a handy little device that just plugs in to a special socket and then blows all the car’s pyrotechnic devices (like airbags) in one go – thus aiding their speedy removal.
The regulatory framework in Europe makes recycling a subject that we will be hearing more about.
Anyway, the whole thing was impeccably well organised by BMW, with cars always available to shuttle people around, for example. I had a couple of rides in a Rolls Royce Phantom – one of them with RR PR man Graham Biggs. We had an interesting chat about the customer base for such cars. Apparently, there is a customer out there who has some eight Phantoms. Eight? I could understand having one perhaps (not that a Roller is quite my cup of tea, actually) but eight? Well, as Graham pointed out, if you have eight palaces around the world, you might want your favourite vehicle available for use at each of them.
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