BMW News

The Czech Republic is a whole other country from Germany, but where BMW is building a new test track, it's only a couple of hours from Munich. It will be the BMW Group's first development location in Eastern Europe and from the concept BMW released, it looks like it will provide some interesting driving. Don't look for a lot of BMW race cars or M cars to be using this facility, however. It's primary purpose is to test ground-breaking technologies relating to electrification, digitalization, and automated driving of BMW Group vehicles.

The new proving ground in Sokolov in the Karlovary Vary region of the Czech Republic will take up just under two square miles of land. It is just across the border from the German town of Waldsassen and about 2.5 hours from Munich by car—maybe more if the car is self-driving. There will be a lot of traffic between the new facility and BMW's main research and development center, commonly known as the FIZ.

Total cost for the project, which will employ several hundred workers, is said to be €100,000,000, or about $118,000,000. BMW anticipates the facility will open sometime after 2020. That probably means that most of the testing of the BMW iNext, which is due in 2021 and involves electrification, digitalization, and automated driving, will have to be done somewhere else until the final phases of the iNext's development.

Dr. Herbert Grebenc, BMW AG's Senior Vice President Real Estate Management, Corporate Security, was at the announcement in Prague and stated, “The BMW Group is at the vanguard of technology. As an innovation driver, we aim to offer customers the best, most emotional mobility experience and create digital connections between people, vehicles, and services. At the planned proving facility in Sokolov, we will continue to advance ground-breaking topics, such as electrification, digitalization, and automated driving—for example, through safety testing for assistance systems.”

According to the company, BMW's existing testing facilities in Aschheim, near Munich, Miramas in France, and Arjeplog in Sweden, can't handle the numbers needed to test these new breeds of vehicles. BMW looked at 82 sites in Germany and adjacent countries, and decided on this property in the Czech Republic because, according to Dr. Grebenc, “We found the ideal conditions and grounds we need for vehicle testing in Sokolov. Opening our first development location in Eastern Europe will create new opportunities and marks a milestone in the history of our company. Working with the property owner Sokolovská uhelná and all political representatives has been extremely positive so far and is based on mutual trust.”

Tomáš Hüner, Czech Minister of Industry and Trade also spoke at the announcement, saying, “The government of the Czech Republic and the BMW Group are preparing a joint cooperation agreement on the investment announced today by the BMW Group in construction of a new proving ground for future vehicle technologies in the Karlovy Vary region. The government will deal with the draft of the specialized aspects of that declaration soon. The Ministry of Industry and Trade welcomes investments of this kind, which create highly skilled and specialized jobs and bring high added value for the Czech economy.”

The location of the new test facility builds on cultural activities in the Czech Republic already supported by BMW, such as the International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary and the International Music Festival in Český Krumlov.—Scott Blazey

[Photo courtesy of BMW AG.]