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BMW to Begin Selling First Hybrid Supercar in 2013

BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer
BMW Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer is developing the hybrid supercar and the electric-powered Megacity auto to help meet tighter environmental regulations and to boost sales to 2 million vehicles by 2020 from 1.4 million this year. Photographer: Guenter Schiffmann/Bloomberg

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s largest maker of luxury autos, will build its first hybrid supercar as part of a broader effort to create more fuel-efficient vehicles and underline its technological prowess.

The Vision Efficient Dynamics model, which accelerates to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles) in 4.8 seconds while emitting 99 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, will go on sale in 2013, the Munich-based carmaker said today at an event in Leipzig, Germany. The car will be priced below the company’s Rolls-Royce models, development chief Klaus Draeger said.

Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer is developing the hybrid supercar and the electric-powered Megacity auto to help meet tighter environmental regulations and to boost sales to 2 million vehicles by 2020 from 1.4 million this year. The new sports car, which has doors that open upwards, is powered by a three-cylinder diesel engine and two electric motors.

“It’s important for BMW to communicate even small progress to cement its perceived role as a leader in hybrid and environmental technology,” said Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt who recommends buying the shares. “It would help if they’re the first to sell such cars. But it’s going to take a while to make them count in terms of earnings.”

BMW closed little changed today in Frankfurt at 54.06 euros. The stock has gained 70 percent this year, valuing the carmaker at 34.5 billion euros ($48.5 billion).

Speedy Acceleration

BMW’s hybrid sports car will have a similar acceleration rate to BMW’s M6 supercar, while emitting just 30 percent of the M6 coupe’s CO2 per kilometer, according to BMW’s website. The M6’s starting price in the U.S. is $102,350.

The carmaker targets “significant” sales volumes for the Vision Efficient Dynamics and will make it available on all major markets as BMW aims to steal customers from competitors’ models, Draeger said.

“I expect a very considerable share of conquests,” he said. “We want to achieve a certain market presence with the car and so can’t limit production to one car a day.”

Porsche SE, which is combining with Volkswagen AG, plans to produce a 918 Spyder hybrid sports car, which features carbon fiber-reinforced plastics to reduce weight and emissions, spokesman Eckhard Eibel said. The carmaker hasn’t decided when the car will go on sale or what the price will be, he added.

SLS Electric Car

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz currently doesn’t intend to make hybrid sports cars but will offer hybrid versions of its S-, E-, and C-Class models and its off-road vehicles. An electric version of its SLS gull-wing sports car with aluminum and plastic components will probably be built and a market introduction by 2013 is realistic, spokeswoman Eva Wiese said.

The Vision Efficient Dynamics will be made in Germany, Reithofer said today at the Leipzig plant. BMW may use a gasoline engine in markets like China and the U.S., where diesel engines aren’t popular, Draeger said.

BMW will invest 530 million euros to set up production of the electric Megacity car. The investments include a new carbon-fiber factory in the U.S. and a 400 million-euro expansion of its Leipzig factory.

The Megacity, BMW’s first battery-powered auto, will be sold under a new sub-brand when it reaches showrooms in 2013. Passengers in the four-seat car, designed for urban driving, will be protected by a carbon-fiber safety cell, similar to a Formula 1 race car.

Sales for the Megacity will be “sizable” and the model will cost less than 60,000 euros, Draeger said.

Competing Plans

The company is designing the Megacity as an electric-only car, saying that a distinct architecture is necessary for battery-powered driving. Daimler, by contrast, is developing vehicles that can be powered with combustion engines or electric motors on the same platform.

BMW is using carbon fiber, which is 50 percent lighter than steel, to reduce weight and enable a smaller, less costly battery to power the vehicle. BMW and SGL Carbon SE, the world’s biggest manufacturer of carbon and graphite products, are building a $100 million factory in Moses Lake, Washington, to make the material for the Megacity models.

Daimler plans to begin using carbon-fiber parts in mass-production cars starting in 2012, spokeswoman Wiese said. Production methods for the material are being developed together with Tokyo-based Toray Industries Inc., she added.

The Vision Efficient Dynamics hybrid sports car was first introduced at the Frankfurt auto show in 2009. It has a height of 1.24 meters (4.1 feet) and seats four people.

The car may lose its transparent doors in the final production version because of demands for speakers and arm rests, designer Benoit Jacob said in an interview today.

“The idea is to express transparency but it remains to be seen how that’s interpreted,” he said.

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