BMW CEO Willisch Expects Over Half of US i3 Buyers to Opt for REx; US Dealers Calling for Additional i3 Supply

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 45

BMW i3

BMW i3

Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America, provided Ward’s Auto with some specifics on predicted i3 sales in the US.

REx Expected to be Popular in US

REx Expected to be Popular in US

According to Willisch, over half of US i3 buyers are expected to opt for the range extender when purchasing or leasing the i3.  That range extender effectively bumps the base price of the i3 up to $45,200.

Interestingly, Willisch predicted 5 months ago ahead of advanced orders that 80% of buyers would choose the REx option.  Perhaps BMW is seeing higher than expected interest in the all-electric version of the i3.

Aside from the optional REx, Willisch doesn’t expect US buyers to tick a bunch of other options boxes because even the base i3 is “pretty fully equipped,” says Willisch.

Though we don’t yet know how much a fully loaded i3 will cost in the US, Willisch seems to think typical i3 will sell for close to its base MSRP.

A few worthwhile and useful options are available, most notably the DC quick-charge, that ultra-efficient heater and a winter package, but Willisch still believes that most i3s will sell for close to MSRP, meaning BMW must not expect many buyers to check the boxes on these options.

As for availability, this seems to be an issue.  Willisch notes that BMW dealers “are really excited about the introduction of the i3, and they already want more [than we promised to supply].”  We touched on limited initial availability for the i3 before, so this now becomes the second time it’s been mentioned.

Source: Ward’s Auto

Tags: , , , , , ,

45 responses to "BMW CEO Willisch Expects Over Half of US i3 Buyers to Opt for REx; US Dealers Calling for Additional i3 Supply"

  1. Lou Grinzo says:

    Normally I would say this is ridiculous — not that many people are scared spitless with range anxiety to push the rex adoption rate that high. But consider the customer base: BMW owners (and I used to be one, so back off) tend to be high in income and not so high on technical expertise. Just being able to brag that they paid extra for the rex is probably enough reason for many of them to do it, even if they haven’t given any serious consideration to whether they (gasp!) need one.

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      “Normally I would say this is ridiculous — not that many people are scared spitless with range anxiety to push the rex adoption rate that high.”

      Forget that it’s a BMW, other than the willingness to spend $4k extra on the REx.

      A range extender allows the owner to make full use of the range without concern for extreme conditions. The owner will still take normal seasonal behavior into account, but the REx stops all concern about extreme lows and highs, errands, traffic jams, diversions, squalls or headwinds.

      It also allows you to go a little beyond range with some inconvenience.

      The cost is additional maintenance and occasional trips to the gas station. I’m sure the BMW dealers will be pushing the REx hard. 😉

      1. Dan Frederiksen says:

        Yeah it’s an interesting point about maintenance. How complex have they made it. One can hope they have taken reliability into account and made it maintenance free. that will be interesting too.

      2. David Stone says:

        “but the REx stops all concern about extreme lows and highs, errands, traffic jams, diversions, squalls or headwinds.”

        I agree on all points, except for traffic jams.
        EVs do not lose more power per mile there like ices do.

  2. Warren says:

    Unfortunately, other than Nissan, none of the big ICE makers are making an effort to sell EV’s.

    Out here in the hinterlands, three years into the “EV revolution”, the Leaf is still your only option.

    1. George B says:

      Interesting to hear, Warren. Which state would that be if you don’t mind me asking?

      1. Warren says:

        Central Virginia. No Smart ED, no Focus, no i Miev (although there was one available in northern Virginia last summer). I suspect you could order a Focus, or i Miev from a dealer in Richmond, or northern Virginia, but there are none to test drive.

        Even sleepy Charlottesville has two Leafs on the lot. An SV and an S.

        1. Ocean Railroader says:

          I see a lot of Volts and a plug in C max hybrid car and a plug in Prius but I have never seen a fully electric car driving under it’s own power on the road or in a parking lot. But I do remember seeing a Nissan leaf at a local car dealership.

    2. Spec says:

      The Volt is certainly an option available to you. I know the purists don’t like it but it is a great way to do most of your driving on electricity while not requiring any charging infrastructure and not having any range issues.

  3. Bloggin says:

    It’s funny how BMW keeps trying to create false demand for this vehicle, when never offering any production numbers.

    And when you can get a EPA 76 EV mile fully loaded Focus Electric or Leaf SL for $35k, or a base EPA 75 EV mile Leaf for $28k, spending $42k for the base 75 EV mile i3 will take quite a bit of convincing at the dealership.

    The only ‘justification’ a consumer would have in choosing an i3, is to opt for the Rex version, so they can at least claim to have more EV range than a $35k Volt. But unfortunately, about 200 less extended range miles for over $10k more.

    But the reality may be that it’s closest competitor based on size and functionality, will be the $31k, 21 EV mile C-Max Energi, with over 600 mile range for $14k less.

    Which brings focus back to BMWs initial marketing plan. Offer the i3 as a second car, expecting the consumer to have another ICE/Hybrid vehicle for longer commutes.

    It seems that if BMW would have just doubled the battery capacity of the base i3 to at least 160 miles(using the empty space where the Rex engine would go), with a base price of $42k, it would be a more viable EV option. With the onboard 7.4kWh onboard charger, a full L2 nightly charge would only take about 6 hours.

    1. Dan Hue says:

      Bloggin, I think that you are too rational. The i3 will tap into a segment of customers that would have been interested in the Leaf or C-Max, but would not buy them because they are Nissan or Ford. When it comes to car, most people first wonder what they can afford, then match their need to their budget. To a degree, we’re all like that, otherwise we’d all be driving used Civics. All BMW has to do is convince them that the i3 offers more value. Which it may, in areas like performance, build quality, etc. We’ll see once it’s available for test drives.

      1. Aaron says:

        We’ll also see if BMW drivers will accept a car as tiny as a Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

        1. Rob says:

          Could you please stop this “Mitsubishi i-MiEV” mantra?

          1. alohart says:

            Aaron makes a valid point, so there’s no reason for him to stop. Describing the i3’s size as almost identical to the i-MiEV makes it much easier to visualize just how small the i3 really is.

            1. Jerry says:

              Actually it is a pretty bad comparison. The i3 is more than a foot longer(144.8″ to 157.6″) than the iMiEV and 7 1/2″ wider(62.4″ to 69.9″). If you want to compare it to another EV then the Honda Fit EV is a good choice. It’s nearly the same size.

              1. Spec says:

                Damn . . . that is pretty small!

                1. David Stone says:

                  only compared to what else is on the road.
                  It is as much as most people need, but for some reason, what they want and think they need is MUCH bigger.

              2. George B says:

                I have to disagree. The i3 is the exact same width like a LEAF, and it’s about an inch taller. Yes, it’s not quite as long, but this come at the expense of rear cargo space and the engine compartment. The passenger cabin should have a comparable amount of space, although the thick doors will likely make themselves noticeable there.

          2. George B says:

            It’s not a valid comparison. The i3 is substantially wider.

    2. MTN Ranger says:

      EPA EV miles for the i3 will not be 76. I bet closer to 90. I guess we will get the final EPA info next year at introduction.

      1. I think it will be the same 80-ish miles as the other EVs that will be sold in California for CARB-ZEV compliance:

        GM Spark EV – 82 miles EPA
        Nissan LEAF – 84 miles EPA @ 100% charge
        Honda Fit EV – 82 miles EPA
        Fiat/Chr 500e – 80-ish EPA
        Ford Focus EV- 80-ish EPA

        Toyota is the only oddball with 113 miles EPA at 100% charge on the Rav4 EV

        1. James M says:

          At only 1200 kg, you under estimate the i3. I am happy to bet money the EPA will rate it the most efficient EV yet (maybe even 150 MPG). Also, considering ECOPro+ mode BMW suggests it will get up to 125 miles range…

    3. Spec says:

      Bloggin, you don’t understand the badge-whore. The propeller logo badge is worth $6K or so alone to many people. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

    4. alohart says:

      “It seems that if BMW would have just doubled the battery capacity of the base i3 to at least 160 miles(using the empty space where the Rex engine would go), with a base price of $42k, it would be a more viable EV option.”

      I don’t know whether the space where the Rex engine is the same volume as that occupied by the current battery pack (doubt it), but BMW could still offer a pure EV with greater range by filling the Rex space with extra battery cells.

    5. evnow says:

      I see a bunch of Volt owners (and some Leaf owners like me) already wondering whether to get i3. I think C-Max Energi was kind of a flop with this crowd because of low utility (trunk occupied by battery).

      1. Spec says:

        And the short electric range of the Energi. It is a nice plug-in hybrid . . . but if you are into electrics, such a short electric range is not very satisfying.

      2. David Stone says:

        it is amazing:
        low kWh battery, and still does not fit into the car properly.

        Maybe large format cells are too large for cars!?!

    6. James M says:

      Who do you work for Bloggin. You constantly bash the i3. The i3 EV range is really 80-125 because ECOPro+ adds 25%. It’s also 7 seconds 0-60, reviewers love the handling and finishings, and it’s purpose built after several experimental BMW EVs. I really liked the Focus EV until I saw this (and the Focus EV “Stop Safely” issue). I don’t trust retrofit ICE vehicles like Focus, Fit, 500e, etc. They are low investment experiments that consumers are paying heavily for. So the price is justified, and have my deposit to be in line already. the 80-125 miles could be enough for all city use. For your couple road trips a year, rent. Skip ReX. Simple. And doubling the battery to 40kWh or more would add another $10-15K, I don’t want that either. Might as well buy the Model S, for $65-100K+…

  4. Dan Frederiksen says:

    4k$ is a bit expensive for a scooter motor but price aside I can certainly understand why you’d want to include it. To BMW’s credit they made it small and relegated it to a back corner of the car where it doesn’t significantly weigh down the car. That’s exactly the right way to do it and what I called for.
    I think it’s only the pain threshold of 4k$ that will prevent all buyers from choosing it.
    I’m obviously an EV purist and I would probably choose it too, price aside, because for the time being it lets you bypass any range limitations imposed by lacking infrastructure because politicians are morons.
    It is so relatively small that it doesn’t hurt my experience of having a pure electric car and it’s a nice backup to have.
    Given that it’s a BMW audience where the lowest price is not necessarily important, I might expect the majority to pay the 4k to get the absolute versatility.
    I’d guess 75% will include the Rx and I hope BMW is rewarded for their wisdom in choosing a bare minimum engine and as an option no less.
    It is rare that the idiot automakers do anything right.

    1. David Stone says:

      people are morons; they get the politicians they deserve and industry make the products they demand.

      The politicians stay in power because they keep getting reelected. And who elects them?
      Idiot automakers make big, inefficient and polluting cars, and they get sold. To whom?

  5. kdawg says:

    Which cost more?

    A range extender ($5k?)
    or
    A 22kWh battery?

    Maybe they should have offered both options; 180 miles of range, either 50% gas 50% electric, or 100% electric. Obviously drivers will not be able to go the full 180 EV miles, or 90 gas miles, but drivers would feel safer pushing the gas miles if there’s a fueling station nearby.

    (this also assumes there’s room for another 22kWh of battery.)

    1. MTN Ranger says:

      If the i3 came with a 30-32kWH battery pack with ~125 AER, I would probably skip the REx.

    2. Dan Frederiksen says:

      The problem with more battery is that you can never have enough. Even Tesla’s extreme range is not enough. And you end up carrying a lot of weight.
      I believe a medium range (150km) with either quick charge or small range extender is the way to go. Everything becomes lighter and cheaper. More efficient. Better. Tesla is doing it wrong…

      1. kdawg says:

        I dunno. Lets say there’s a quick charger everywhere there’s a gas station. If you can QC 90 miles in 15 minutes, or put 90 miles of gas in your tank in 5 minutes, they are almost on par. (ignoring the Tesla battery swap for now)

        Regarding weight, we see that battery weight is coming down, but what about engine weight? These could end up being equal in the near future. Remember too that the TMS is already there for the 22kWh battery, so increasing it to 44kWh is mostly only adding the weight of the cells.

        1. Dan Frederiksen says:

          22kWh can easily weigh 200kg and add 10k$ to the price.
          Adding 200kg load means the car has to be stronger as well, adding more weight, making it less efficient.

          1. George B says:

            Yes, this is exactly the case with the REx version. Personally, I don’t see any compelling reason why a 30 kWh BEV couldn’t be offered instead of alongside the REx version. Let the market decide. I predict that many buyers would opt for the longer-range BEV version and fewer would select the REx and shorter-range BEV. Tesla has demonstrated that most buyers equate long EV range with premium.

          2. kdawg says:

            The little range extender in the BMW i3 still weighs 260lbs (or 118kg). The gas tank + fuel + whatever = another 30lbs. I think as battery weight (and prices) come down, range extenders will make less & less sense. I think your price on the extra battery cells is high.

            1. George B says:

              The 21.6 kWh (rated) battery pack weight 330 kg and supposedly costs about 8,000 euro. If you were to add 10 kWh to the BEV version of the i3, you would be looking at a similar weight and cost penalty like the REx. Easily doable. The only question is volume. The REx version plus gasoline could occupy less space than 10 kWh of battery. Chances are though that a 31.6 kWh (rated) battery pack was possible instead of the REx. Personally, that’s what I would opt for. Given the high efficiency of the car, this could translate to 120 to 130 miles EPA range. Comparable to the cancelled base 40 kWh Model S.

          3. Spec says:

            Woah. Dan just admitted that a battery can cost $450/KWH! He is becoming in touch with reality!

      2. David Stone says:

        No, they are doing it right, which is offering their customers what they want, and not offering what they do not want.
        And very few wanted the 160 mile version.
        So no-one would have bought the 150km version.

        Imagine how well the company would be doing now had they made thousands of such cars…

    3. evnow says:

      Noway they can fit another 22kWh battery in the REx space. And it would cost a lot ($10k ?).

  6. Ted Fredrick says:

    I for one am considering the BMW. I sold my wifes BMW 328 to buy my Focus. My wife wan’t happy. She told me the Focus is not the ultimate driving machine after she made a panic stop. If I could get a BMW to compliment our all electric Focus that would be a perfect combo. The wifes happy, and we have a 180 mile range car that will be drive most of the time on all electric. I never wan’t to pay $240 a month for gas again.

  7. Spec says:

    I agree that most buyers will probably get it. But when the next generation rolls around, most of those people will realize that they really didn’t need it and instead just opt for a car with ~120 miles of battery instead.

  8. I haven’t sold the 325 I parked for my Focus E, but having driven it maybe 3 times in the last 4 months, it’s gonna go. I’m with you Ted, I never want to pay $240 a month for gas again. My Focus is like a free car after considering fuel cost savings. I never thought I’d drive a Ford again, but I’m very happy with this car. I’ll never buy another oil-burner.

    1. Tom A. says:

      Agreed. When I bought my hybrid in 2010, I said that it would be the last internal combustion vehicle I’ll ever own. Well, assuming it won’t be totalled between now and 2016-ish, my next car will be a Tesla (GenIII or post-lease Model S).

      In the meantime, being a Ford hybrid, it should last well beyond that time with minimal maintenance. I certainly can’t complain with a 35mpg average from a boxy, mid-size SUV with an EPA combined rating of 33mpg. Taking mass transportation most days to work, I only fill up about once a month.