Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s biggest maker of luxury vehicles, is sticking to plans to sell the i8 hybrid supercar for more than 100,000 euros ($125,400) when the model reaches customers in about two years.
BMW will price the i3 electric compact car, scheduled to go on sale at the end of 2013, “very competitively for the substance you get” from new powering technology, Ian Robertson, BMW’s global sales chief, told reporters today at the unveiling of the I sub-brand’s first sales outlet worldwide on London’s Park Lane.
The showroom “is a further demonstration of our commitment to electro-mobility,” Robertson said.
The German company is spending 530 million euros developing the sub-brand to keep its sales lead over Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz. The i8 will compete with Fisker Automotive Inc.’s $103,000 Karma rechargeable sedan, while the i3 would come out just before Saab Automobile introduces an electric version of its 9-3 car, according to plans announced today by the Swedish carmaker’s new owners.
BMW outlined a pricing strategy for the i3 and i8 when it displayed prototypes of the models almost a year ago. The I product range is likely to grow, though Munich-based BMW hasn’t decided on that yet, Robertson said.
The production model of the i3 is based 85 percent to 90 percent on the car’s concept version, Benoit Jacob, chief designer for the I models, said at the news conference.
BMW is considering offering I cars through a mobile sales force, which would operate in locations with no dealers, and over the Internet, the company said. BMW has used mobile teams to offer test drives at holiday resorts, said Linda Croissant, a BMW spokeswoman.
At the same time, “the dealer will remain the backbone of what we are doing in the interface with the customer,” Robertson said.
In Germany, 45 of BMW’s roughly 200 dealerships will sell I models, Robertson said.
To protect the sales outlets from the risk of dealing with new-technology cars, BMW will continue to own the vehicles, and the 45 I-brand showrooms will operate as agents rather than dealers, Karsten Engel, BMW’s head of sales in Germany, said earlier this month.
The cars are designed to accommodate an electric drive train and have a lightweight body structure made of a carbon-fiber composite. BMW has set up a partnership with German manufacturer SGL Carbon SE to produce carbon fiber at a joint-venture plant in Moses Lake, Washington.
A range-extending small gasoline engine for the i8 hybrid model will be built at the carmaker’s Hams Hall engine plant in the British Midlands, Robertson said yesterday.