BMW’s i3 compact electric car might buck the standard seven-year lifecycle trend. That doesn’t mean that it won’t live on beyond that, while receiving battery updates along the way.
- BMW i3, despite coming up on its seventh model year, will continue to live on its current form, receiving battery upgrades over time.
- i Division chief sees further reason to continue Bimmer’s twee EV, as sales continue to grow (mostly in Europe) year over year.
- MINI’s pure-electric Cooper SE model is underpinned by i3 batteries and tech, further amortizing development costs.
BMW is working on several new all-electric models, including a Tesla Model 3-sized car called the i4. Despite developing those new EV models, the BMW’s first dedicated EV, the i3, has remained mostly the same. That is, save some battery upgrades and a few visual tweaks.
Despite Bimmer not giving much attention to the i3, customers — specifically in Europe — have flocked to the hatchback in increasing numbers year over year. In 2014, the first full production year for the i3, BMW sold 16,052 i3s worldwide. In 2018, it sold 36,829. And for 2019 it is on track to crack 40,000 i3 sales.
Realizing it has a good thing on its hands, and not much else to replace it with, BMW is staying the course with the twee i3.
“There is always further potential,” i Division chief Robert Irlinger told Auto Express. “We always look to the market and and whether we’ll need something – a big update or a small update. But there is more to come. When you’re talking about the battery, actually we had quite good feedback from the markets that the latest [120Ah] one is totally fine, if you’re using the car normally in an urban area. There is a little bit more coming; you will see something.”
“The i cars, the i3 and the i8, are not comparable with normal BMW cars, which usually have a life cycle of about seven years.” Irlinger added. “With i, we will always try something new. Every year we’ve been selling more. We’re still confident with the car, and about its future success. If more people like it, and they keep liking it, why should we drop it?”
The rationale for keeping the i3 mostly unchanged could conceivably be several fold. First off, developing the i3 must have been expensive. So, BMW brass is likely keen to further amortize it — another reason, the i3’s batteries and tech underpin the new pure-electric MINI Cooper SE.
And yet another reason, is BMW is enjoying increased sales without much effort. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? It’s a rare concept for BMW. But, hey, maybe it’s trying something new, by not trying something new.
Most importantly, however, is the fact that Bimmer hasn’t developed an i3 replacement. The i3 was ahead of the game when it debut. Since then, the brand has let that lead and momentum slip and given up ground to competitors. This is one of the reasons why BMW’s most recent CEO resigned at the end of his contract — he let the leadership position slip through BMW’s fingers.