Soft Demand Limits BMW i3 Sales

2 years ago by Eric Loveday 79

BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW i8

BMW i8

Seldom do we hear an automotive executive admit that demand is lower than anticipated for a given car, but such is the case with the BMW i3.

Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing, revealed to Autocar that while demand for the BMW i8 is extremely high, its lower-priced, more mainstream stablemate, the BMW i3, is not seeing the level of demand that BMW expected.

As Autocar puts it:

“Robertson also admitted that the i3’s modest sales figures are being governed by demand, rather than the industrialization and production issues that troubled the vehicle at the start of its life.”

Quoting Robertson:

“We see lots of outside factors involved, including range anxiety, incentives in some countries but not in others, and the price of fuel [in the United States]. But sales of the i3 are up 60% year on year and it’s the third best-selling EV in the world. We’re convinced the i steps have been right.”

As for the expensive i8, Robertson stated:

“The i8 sports car is considered more of a retail success than its smaller brother, with a healthy waiting list of orders.”

Source: Autocar

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79 responses to "Soft Demand Limits BMW i3 Sales"

  1. SparkEV MD says:

    If the i3 wasn’t so weird looking I think they’d have better results.

    1. Brian says:

      …says the one who drives a Spark EV?

      But I agree, especially for the BMW-type of buyer. It is weird looking.

      I suspect that if the rumored increase in battery capacity is coupled with a slightly larger tank for the REx, i3 sales could increase dramatically. The 1-2 punch of better AER and less frequent stops on road trips will do a lot to make the i3 closer to a “real car” in the eyes of many consumers.

      1. Speculawyer says:

        Well, since you can pick up a Spark EV for like $15K after incentives, it is much easier to excuse its lack of aesthetic appeal.

        1. ffbj says:

          Money talks, or in this case whispers, ‘buy the Spark, its a lot cheaper.’

        2. Brian says:

          Oh, I understand. Just making a friendly jab (and this is coming from someone who drives an EV that is flat-out ugly 😉 )

          But alas, I cannot buy a Spark EV at any price without jumping through hoops and then towing it 300 miles to Syracuse NY.

      2. przemo_li says:

        I thought that Spark EV look exactly like “just” Spark… Which means that potential Chevrolet buyer wont look in other direction with shock in their eyes when faced with EV version.

      3. Forever green says:

        Brian, I agree with everything you said up to the point when you start to talk about the looks of the i3. I happen to like the looks of the BMW i3. It is very practical and functional. The problem for me is justifying paying such a premium price for an electric vehicle with the same electric range as the spark EV or the Nissan Leaf. The i3 Rex needs to have at least 125 all-electric (EPA) miles with another 100 miles on gas for it to sell better. With range like that I surely would buy one. There’s a BMW i3 Rex in my future, but not this one.

        1. Larry says:

          Longer range or lower price. It’s hard to justify $50K for a car crippled by CARB compliance restrictions. It’s galling that they don’t even include the rear-view camera in the base price as does Volt. Apparently it costs $600 more for any color other than white. In order to override the Rex restriction you have to void the warranty, I’d guess. Also, I think the Rex version only has a resistance heater rather than heat pump.

          1. ggpa says:

            CARB did not cripple i3. BMW’s greed did. If they were willing to classify i3 under same category as Chevrolet Volt, they could have added a bigger gas tank.

          2. 3laine says:

            $50k for an i3? A loaded one is $55k sticker and if you don’t get at least $5k off, you should have done more research, nowadays. Of course, that’s BEFORE incentives and only if it’s fully loaded and REx. My REx with auto-parking, backup camera, and the 20″ wheels was $37,000 after incentives.

            Oh, and I didn’t pay extra for my grey paint, so no, white isn’t the only no-cost color.

            Also, why would coding your car to match the one sold everywhere else void your warranty? What would it CAUSE to break (which is legally the only way to void the warranty)?

            There are legitimate reasons to not like the i3. No reason to make up additional ones by exaggerating.

            1. Larry says:

              Just speculating. Since there isn’t an i3 dealer within hundreds of miles, it’s hard to do research, certainly no bargaining. Fully loaded is not my goal – only Rex and rear-view camera are required. Purely guessing on “coding” to match the rest of the world, but I have not actually read about anybody getting away with this. You must also qualify for a ton of incentives not available in my state.

              ggpa: I agree BMW could ignore CARB restrictions if they were less greedy.

    2. TomArt says:

      Agreed. It is not the style of vehicle one expects from BMW.

      I have the same fear about the Model III. Musk has been quoted more than once that it will be very different from anything we’ve seen before. A lot of people, myself included, have put a lot of hopes on the Model III because we can’t afford and/or justify the expense of the Model S/X.

      The performance of the Model S/X is spectacular, but they are also desirable because of their aesthetics, particularly the S. I do not recall any negative feedback about the appearance about the Model S (except for the nosecone). It’s just a damn fine-looking vehicle from any viewpoint.

      The Model III will need that kind of appeal, in my opinion.

    3. James says:

      Ithink it’s a combination of factors, some of which he didn’t mention. Looks are definitely one, but I had other issues.

      First, when you close the door, the panels ripple. It just didn’t feel like quality, and especially not for a $50k car.

      Second, it’s woefully stripped down at base level, or it was. No heated seats or standard QC? That was crazy, and they did fix that for 2015.

      Third, it’s range is so weak for that kind of money. They should’ve put a minimum of 30kW in this car. At 125-150 miles, range anxiety pretty much disappears. I can say that from years of experience driving different EV’s.

      It’s a tiny car. It’s fun to drive because of its size, but for that money I want 3-series room.

      1. mike w says:

        We took an i3 for a test drive last month. The rippling panel problem was solved by dropping the front window an inch every time the door was opened and then raising the window backup when the door was closed.

    4. Leader says:

      it needs more range you dummy.

  2. Tony says:

    Local SoCal Dealer can’t keep them in stock. I’m waiting for a bump in battery capacity.

    1. Acevolt says:

      I see 206 new i3’s for sale in the Southern California area with up to $6K off sticker on cars.com. I tried to get my wife to buy one but she said it was too ugly. For the same price in California, I think the B-Class is nicer and has more range.

      1. Larry says:

        I wish there was a Rex version of the B-class. I think it’s a great looking car.

  3. Robert says:

    Well take out that stupid dip in the window for the rear door. It looks ugly, the design doesn`t flow right.

    1. David Murray says:

      I like the dip… I think it looks cool.

      1. Dan says:

        Our 3-year-old daughter loves the window dip cuz she can more easily see out. She asks for it on other cars now. 🙂

        Also with DC fast charging and the REx, you can drive it nearly anywhere (I put 200 miles on it yesterday without using a drop of gas), but the DCFC network is better in Northern Californa than most other places.

        Also before this we had a FIAT 500E. It was an awesome car when it worked. No more compliance cars for us.

      2. Elroy says:

        Didn’t the new VOLT copy a version of that rear window dip??

    2. Johnmb says:

      That dip is a signature design ..hope they never give it up..and the rear doors are super for getting my two and three year olds in and out of the back..a stroke of genius.

      1. 3laine says:

        Agreed. The dip is functional for those in the back seats, even if not everyone likes the way it looks.

  4. Doug B says:

    Give it a bigger battery for 150+ miles of range and I think sales will pick up healthily.

    1. Seth says:

      Indeed, with the range it has now, people compare it to a Leaf and a Soul but significantly cheaper.

      If it had significantly more range (without extender) it would be far easier to sell. There would be a compelling attribute over the others. But there isn’t.

      Maybe they would’ve had more succes with a i5, it would be more expensive, but there is plenty of a gap between the current 100 mile crop and the 250 mile Tesla to sell a succesful car.

      Even for NL it wouldn’t make much sense, I couldn’t even drive to the main airport in the Netherlands and back. Perhaps that would be a usefull metric regardless of country. “distance between airports” so that you can atleast pick one up.

      With the current i-Miev I drive (or the i3 for that matter), I’d need to fast charge before I even get to the airport in a country the size of a postage stamp.

      My dinky 2010 i-Miev has (about) the same range as your 2015 model (i3, Leaf, Zoe, Soul), Car makers, you’re doing it wrong.

      1. Art Isbell says:

        We traded our 2012 i-MiEV for a BMW i3 BEV because it has 25% greater range for us (we never drive >100 kph). For us, that’s not “about” the same range. Maybe the range of the wider, heavier North American i-MiEV is slightly less than European models, but certainly not 20% less.

      2. Paul says:

        My Soul has a true range of 200 km, when the battery goes from 100% to 0%. I never let it go down to 0% but often enough to 10%, which gives me 180 km. An i-Miev cannot do that.

  5. shane says:

    For the BMW crowd, a $40-45K price point is probably fine, but if they want a wider audience, they’ll need to figure out how to get closer to the Leaf on price-point ($30K or less)

    1. Speculawyer says:

      But those people wanted something that looks more like a normal BMW. Or at least not so weird.

    2. Mike616 says:

      Exactly. $40,000 becomes $50,000 with options that should be standard equipment. Prices it out of my market. Sorry, I’m not rich.

    3. Fred Faller says:

      Get rid of the dealers,

  6. danpatgal says:

    I really like the vehicle, but the backseat (entry, space, etc.) are kind of limited as compared to even the modest iMiev (which we own). I’m personally trying to rationalize an i3 purchase (if the price gets low enough) because I really like what BMW has done with it, the performance, comfort, flexibility (especially with ReX), and new technology. Maybe BMW will get bargain hunters like me to step up and take up the slack ;).

    1. Art Isbell says:

      We were happy with just about everything with our i-MiEV except it’s range after we moved farther from the center of our island. The i3 BEV is almost identical to the i-MiEV in all ways except range and length (~1 ft. longer). I was willing to pay for the i3’s advanced CFRP and aluminum construction which resulted in it being about the same weight as our i-MiEV despite having a larger, heavier, temperature-controlled battery pack, much more luxurious interior, and much more sophisticated suspension.

  7. David Murray says:

    I like the i3 and would consider an i3 Rex myself, except I just can’t justify the BMW price as compared to something like a 2016 Volt, which is arguably a more capable car.

    Having said that, I think the styling is the primary reason for the soft demand, followed closely by the fact that it is an expensive EV with less EV range than competitors such as the Leaf that sell at a lower price. Most anyone considering an EV has done some homework and are likely familiar with the competition. So BMW really needs to get the EV range up into the 3-digits if they want to stay competitive.

    1. Dan says:

      We leased our 2014 REx six months ago for $228/month. I’m too cheap to be an normal European car buyer (or leassor).

      1. David Murray says:

        I haven’t seen any deals like that on a Rex anywhere. And I’ve looked, and even inquired at BMW dealers. The best offers I’ve had were for a BEV version around $350 per month. But I would insist on a Rex and the best offer I’ve had has been $450 per month.

        So, I just bought (rather than leased) a used 2013 Volt and I have a payment of only $299 per month and at the end it is mine.. so I just can’t justify the i3 at this point and on my budget.

        1. Fred Faller says:

          More Bring My Wallet

        2. 3laine says:

          FWIW, I pay about $400/mo for my REx with auto parking and 20″ wheels when rolling everything in (small down payment and fees) I also got a free BMW EVSE that usually costs $1000.

  8. Elroy says:

    They also need to update that ridiculously archaic speedometer cluster pod. It looks like an old ATARI display compared to the competition. You have to toggle to get time/temp/economy readings, instead of everything being displayed at once like most EVs.

    1. Dan says:

      Yes. We love our i3 REx, but the instrument panel is a travesty. Agree with you on the Atari look. Reminds me of a mid-80s Pontiac or Nissan digital dash. It’s terrible. Call me a Luddite, but I prefer gauges and needles for their clarity and elegance. I guess a digital version of analog gauges would be an acceptable compromise.

      Otherwise we love the car. The funky styling has really grown on me.

  9. Speculawyer says:

    I’m not surprised. It is certainly not a bad car. It has some amazing quality likes its unmatched efficiency. But the looks are certainly polarizing. Suicide doors turn off some people. The pure EV battery range is pretty short for a car that price. Only 4 seats. The REx has weak performance (which I think is fine) but it really could use a larger fuel tank to be much more useful.

    It has some nice ideas but it just didn’t completely come together.

    1. Chris says:

      Agree. The i3 is a “so close” kind of car. ideally, it would have had a bit more battery battery range and look a bit more normal and have a bit bigger gas tank and have rear doors a bit more useful and be a bit more stable on the freeway and have a bit better ride…any one of those probably isn’t a deal breaker, but the combination makes it rough.

  10. Ed says:

    BMW designed an EV that wouldn’t cannibalize sales from its 3-series. They got what they asked for. This is why the established auto makers can’t make a compelling EV.

    1. Speculawyer says:

      Interesting theory.

    2. CSS says:

      Agreed! Not that they “can’t”, just “don’t”

    3. CSS says:

      Or they make a nice EV transition vehicle like the Volt and then absolutely do not market it anywhere near what they do for their ICE vehicles.

    4. Three Electrics says:

      They also don’t want to cannibalize the MINI, leaving the car between two markets. Soon the technology will exist to make a real electric MINI and a real electric five series.

  11. Dan says:

    For having such a strong external design that might be off-putting to some buyers, #3 in the world isn’t bad.

  12. pjwood1 says:

    i8 is so “Halo”. i3 is a couple tweaks from a big hit.

    OK, bad seque, but from this morning’s conference VW’s tune is still “they did it”, not “we did it”. The deny & fight regulations strategy has to stop, for their own good.

    Chairman Potsch: “quite simply could not find a way to meet the tougher” limits for nitrogen oxide pollutants in the U.S.
    http://tinyurl.com/nkjzjoa
    Really? Urea tanks wouldn’t do it? That’s some pretty old tech, VW.

  13. Dennis says:

    It’s harder to sell the i3 when certain dealers refuse to carry it.

    1. 3laine says:

      And most don’t know anything about them. I could exceed the salesman’s knowledge with about 30 mins of research.

  14. PVH says:

    Too expensive & too little range.

  15. Sean Hart says:

    Around here in Southern Ontario many BMW dealers will barely admit the car exists and are not interested in selling it. So even interested buyers have to go to some length (i.e. Toronto) to buy one.

    1. alain says:

      for the price of a leaf yes ! but almost double the price no! one seat less .every thing is extra on this car .bring the price down like the volt and the leaf did.

  16. agzand says:

    The exterior styling and interior space are two main culprits. Also it needs a larger battery and larger gas tank. Just stretch it by a foot and make the battery bigger and front clip more macho. It will sell three times more.

  17. mhpr262 says:

    Give it at least 120 miles of real-life EPA range, lower the price by $5000 and it will sell. BTW I remember press releases from a year ago, saying that they will have to “double production capacity because of overwheleming demand”. What happened?

    1. Chris says:

      I think the i3 novelty has worn off a bit and impacted demand. Now combine that with the fact that BMW launched the i3 shortly before other manufacturers were launching their “next generation” products and you have folks either moving to those products or waiting for them. Now add in stuff like cheap gas, and well, the average person isn’t even CONSIDERING EVs right now. heck, when I got my Volt gas was almost double what it is now and I have to admit, I probably would not have considered it if gas were the price it is today. NOW I appreciate the electric driving experience, but back then that wasn’t a factor.

      1. jelloslug says:

        Just two months ago BMW had it’s best US sales month for the i3. Sales might not be what BMW wants but they are consistent.

  18. Open-Mind says:

    In Illinois, only the Chicago-area dealerships carry the i3. Not sure if other states are similar, but that might have something to do with the low demand. Otherwise it’s probably due to BMW’s poor design choices and high price.

  19. Dan says:

    I’ve been sitting on the fence between the i3 and the e-golf for months now. I like the styling of the i3 compared to the fresh-out-of-college look of the Golf, but size is proving to be the issue. I need to fit a kid and a really large dog in the back. Anybody with dogs and an EV with real world experiences to share?

    1. Dan says:

      We have a 2014 REx, a 3-year-old, a 6-month-old, and had a 85 lb dog. We (wife and I and kids and dog) all fit, but had to leave some of the baby battle gear (stroller) at home.

      1. Dan says:

        That’s interesting, Dan #2. So, your 85lb dog fits in the trunk area? I was measuring the back and it is about 40″ by 24″ which seems a lot smaller than the 40″ by 33″ of the e-golf and a huge step down from the 40″ by 40″ in my A4 avant that my furry guy is used to. Perhaps it’s more usable space?

    2. TeV says:

      Dan #1 (@ 2:08pm):
      Have you considered the Kia Soul EV? It’s bigger than either of the other vehicles you’re considering – has longer range as well – and costs around the same as (or possibly even less than) the VW.

    3. Harold Sogard says:

      Dan- I totally love my i3, but I have to confess I would not recommend it for people with dogs and young kids. There is plenty of room for both in the back seat, but getting dogs and kids in and out of that back seat is a HUGE pain in the ass because of the suicide doors. Especially so when you try to load or unload them when parked in a nose-in parking area as opposed to a parallel parking area. When I say to my standard poodle “let’s go to the park” she always happily runs to my wife’s X3 and then gives me a look of disappointment (or maybe it’s disgust?) when I indicate that no, we are going in my i3.

      1. Fred Faller says:

        Big Poodles are really smart

  20. Pete says:

    There were rumors the next 3 series in 2019 will get a pure electric option! BMW should do that earlier.

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  22. techguy says:

    Calm down Martin. We love the i3 too!

    BMW – just make the 94Ah battery upgrade available cheaply so people can get minimum 130 miles real world (EPA) range, and you’ll see i3’s fly off the shelves. People think twice at 80 miles and get put off. Some would only spend this kind of money if it meant going all electric – not just Rex or PHEV.

  23. koz says:

    Plug-ins need to be = or better than their ICE counterparts. i3 is not for most people so disappointing should not be a surprise.

  24. Bloggin says:

    The number of consumers looking for an ‘odd’ looking EV so they can show others they have an EV is shrinking. A better approach is to make a vehicle that looks nice that the owner want’s to drive every day….that happens to be an EV.

  25. Johnmb says:

    For me the i3 is perfect ..what is unfortunate is that what is perfect for me is not for most..how many have solar panels, how many folks drive 30-60 miles/day (and recharge exclusively with level 1), how many folks are fed up with the exhaust that pollutes our air and want to do something about it.. even if it means moving outside their comfort zone, how many folks could care less about design and more about comfort, practicality, cleanliness, and efficiency.

    I was in our local post office and a empty monster SUV was parked outside engine running while the owner was inside the office. So that’s what I’d call weird..or is that how typical Americans behave.

    I wanted an BEV that would save me a couple of thousand in state registration fees, kick a.. in handling, and would be affordable..yes affordable. The top of the line 2014 BEV i3 after federal tax rebate, negligible state fees, gas savings, 1.6% financing, is very affordable..the sticker price may have said $51.5K ($45.5K after haggling with the dealer) but in terms of real cost it will be less than $20K when all is said and done..and all pollution free..

    So all these folks hung-up on “weird” because this EV doesn’t look like an ICEV are missing the boat of quality, cleanliness, performance, and affordability. The i3 is perfect for me.

  26. Nix says:

    I really wanted to like the i3. But BMW has made it really hard.

    Tires and wheels. What a mess. Odd size with few choices, staggered wheels, and they aren’t run-flats, with no spare. The front and rear wheels have different offsets, so no tire rotations. No snow tires for the 20 inch wheels, yet our local BMW dealer here in snow and mountain country keeps loading their stock with 20’s.

    With the REX, you have to hack your brand new car’s computer to make it safe if you live near mountains. And you have no idea if they are going to flash the ECU and lock you out some day and block your hack.

    Without the REX, it is very expensive for the similar range as much cheaper EV’s. The REX is the feature that makes the i3 really unique compared to other EV’s.

    Paint color choices, interior, and exterior design are all controversial.

    Then there’s the charging….

    1. Johnmb says:

      BMW is producing highly efficient BEVs..and we miss the point in comparing them to ICEV..Yes no spares, yes odd sized wheels, yes limited distribution, all part and parcel of a developing BEV industry ONLY 5 years old..but maturing. Let’s take off those ICEV glasses and seriously look at how our transportation industry has to change not by taking ICEV and trying to stick BEV components in them.

      We are “re-designing” our personal transportation systems and it will seem odd and uncomfortable at first..just like rotary phones would feel but if we don’t change today we’ll be living in a very uncomfortable future world, and then we’ll be forced to change whether we like it or not.

      1. Nix says:

        John — You are singing to the choir when it comes to ICE motors. We’ve already replaced 2 ICE motors with electric motors in my household, and working on replacing more.

        All the problems I listed are problems compared to other EV’s, that other EV’s don’t have. Not a comparison to ICE vehicles.

        When it comes to odd tire sizes, BMW has done this before. They built a special wheel/tire combo for the BMW M5 in the early 90’s, and it failed. No other car maker took their odd tires, and it screwed over M5 owners, who were left with an orphaned tire size, where standard tires wouldn’t fit on these rims.

        At least M5 owners could simply swap to a standard wheel and get away from the problem. But if the i3 wheels/tires suffer the same fate, the i3 can’t fit any alternate wheels with an alternate tire.

        You can say that it is just a growing pain for adopting a new young product, but I don’t even see BMW building any of their new PHEV’s with that tire/wheel combo, much less any other car companies building to that wheel. It shows all the signs of a dead-end format, like knock-off wheels.

        1. Johnmb says:

          That’s exactly what I’ve been saying there is nothing standard in this car, and I understand that some folks will shy away from it for that reason, and, also, some will be drawn to it for that reason. It hasn’t received all it’s industry praise, recognition and awards for being ordinary.

          In 5-10 years the i3 will be upgraded and refined with many more after markets components and accessories.

          but as noted in a posting on BMW BLOG..

          http://goo.gl/8PRMhr

          “It’s amazing how far BMW went to insure that every detail about the i3 was as optimized as humanly possible. With something as simple as wheels and tires, BMW decided to go through the trouble to reinvent the wheel (no pun intended) to make the i3 handle and ride the way BMW’s are supposed to. It’s just another reason, atop the myriad of reasons, why the i3 is the most innovative car on the road.”

          And unfortunately so many who have posted here still are uncomfortable with the innovation that has been accomplished and simply complain about this, that, and the other thing. The i3 is truly the first BEV designed as a BEV and so many don’t appreciate that YET..from what I’m reading both here and in many other postings.

  27. Phil says:

    After 15 years of owning BMWs, I went with a Leaf over the i3. For me, the i3 had one major flaw I couldn’t get past – the lack of a CHAdeMO charging option.

    Plenty of CHAdeMO stations in the Northeast and I’ve used them to put over 20k miles in a year on my Leaf. At the furthest point I typically travel (about 50 miles from home) I have a choice of 3 different CHAdeMO stations. No CCS stations in that area yet. Even took the Leaf from Boston on a vacation to Vermont. With the exception of a level 2 charge in Concord NH, it was all CHAdeMO. Couldn’t have done that with a BEV i3.

  28. Zaphod says:

    This begins and ends with this:

    It’s an ugly little runt of a car.

    Build it in a Mini Cooper body and it FLIES off the showroom floors.

    yes, we consumers (as a crowd) are that shallow.

    Who wants to be embarrassed arriving in an goofball looking thing like that? When dropping your children off at school in the morning they would make you stop a block away so their friends wouldn’t see them getting out of it.

    Automobile Manufacturing is rife with examples of consumers buying doggish cars in droves because they looked cool (’57 T-Bird anybody?) Same thing here, only in reverse.