5 Reasons Why BMW i3 Is Not A Sales Success In Germany

FEB 6 2015 BY STAFF 39

While BMW has once again posted a record sales year, the German market has been less welcoming for the new BMW i3 electric vehicles. Only 2,128 (sales figure provided by InsideEVs.com) BMW i3’s found their home in Germany through November 2014 which is significantly less than rumored 5,000 units sales target imposed by from the Munich HQ.

Since I have spent some time in Germany lately, I “looked” around to identify some of the reasons why the i3 sales fell short of expectations.  In the end I came up with five reasonable reasons why BMW i3 is yet to be a success in the local market.

For the most part, the findings are not backed by statistical figures, analytics or other data, and they are rather based on common sense. You will see that Europeans have a different way of doing things and how they perceive electric cars compared to the U.S. counterparts for example.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG.  Check it out here.

  1. Public Transportation

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Public Transport

BMW has always touted the BMW i3 as the perfect city car: attractive, lightweight, fast, low fuel consumption and small, so it can be parked anywhere. The problem is that transportation in Germany and Europe works different and arguably better than in other countries/continents.

In my opinion, a significant obstacle in the way of adopting electric cars is the ultra-efficient German public transport system. If you live, for example, in BMW’s hometown Munich getting around in a car for anything but pleasure is a nuisance of epic proportions. Half the time, this magnificent city is locked in a serious traffic jam that literally grinds to a halt many times during the day.

The smart alternative is to jump on the highly efficient U-Bahn or S-Bahn system which blitzes you around the city in mere minutes. The same travel in terms of distance can take up to 1-2 hours in a car, compared to just 15-20min on a train.

Add the cost of parking, lack of parking and generally, driving a car during several staus, and you will understand why driving is a daunting challenge. Not even an electric vehicle can fix all these issues.

  1. Charging

Yes, Germany is considered one of the most advanced countries in green technology and solar power, which profoundly implemented in everyday lives. But, on the other hand, the mere fact that most residents of Munich wont have the means to charge them efficiently still remains. Unlike the United States, urbanization in German cities has not yet pushed the wealthier demographic groups to the suburbs and most still remain in the city center, riddled with logistical issues for owning an electric car like this.

  1. Pricing

While this subject touches on the public transportation topic, it also relays the important factor of cost savings over owning a new car.

If you live in Munich and your residential area is located inside the U-Bahn zones, you will pay 97.00€ for a monthly ticket, granting you access to the entire network with completely unlimited travel time, travel distance and usage of the entire subway system there. The usual trip from the city center in Munich to the farthest station on the subway system is around 30min every day, when things are running regularly over there. No parking fares and no sitting in traffic, at all. It’s efficient, easy to use and cost friendly too. The public transportation system also runs throughout the day and night with only a short 4 hours break in the middle of the night, where the network is inspected, cleaned and maintained.

On the other hand, a lease for a BMW i3 runs approximately 500€ for a 36 month lease with a hefty down payment. With the BMW i3 designed as a second car or a city car, the price tag you need to cough up for one doesn’t warranty the expense for some people.

  1. Alternative models

Tesla Model S

While it hasn’t seen spectacular sales figures, the Tesla Model S is providing German car owners with a viable alternative to petrol-powered cars sold in Germany. Some say these are priced the same as for example a BMW 530i and a BMW i3 together, with Tesla Model S pretty much serving the same purpose as these two.

The extended range of the Tesla Model S makes it a perfect vehicle, especially with the introduction of the Superchargers in various parts of the country allowing for a quick and easy charge.

  1. Overall Appeal

Sticks and stones will be thrown for sure. The BMW i3 doesn’t quite have the appeal to German buyers as it does to Americans, especially to those in California. With lots of green areas, efficient public transportation and tons of forests, the need of an electric drive to save the environment takes a second place, or even lower on the reasons why to buy an EV.

BMW i3 is appealing to the younger and more techno friendly group of potential customers. In Germany, the general feeling towards cars in general is a mixed one. Unlike the United States, where a car is a necessity, in Germany it is not.

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39 Comments on "5 Reasons Why BMW i3 Is Not A Sales Success In Germany"

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and the first reason not written here is :
electricity power in germany is the most expensive in europe.thats the reason and i am living near on germany in strasburg france alsace.

That’s an important reason.

It’s not just the i3 selling rather poorly, all EVs have weak numbers in Germany.

For example, the January 2015 numbers are:

KBA stats:

138 BMW i3, 98 Renault Zoe, 57 Tesla Model S and 27 Nissan Leaf. E-Golf, e-Up und E-Smart are among “others” in the KBA numbers.

Well said, jessy. I was shocked to learn that the electricity rate in Germany is about twice the national average in the USA. Of course, that still makes EVs significantly cheaper to drive. But the lower cost-per-mile is the EV’s biggest selling point, at least for those who have never driven one and have not -felt- how much more enjoyable they are to drive. In Germany, the higher cost for electricity surely eats into the EV’s biggest selling point significantly.

This is what happens when you try to get electricity from renewables.

You are relentless, I’ll give you that. Relentless will buy you little here unless you do your homework.

Hmm? You are clueless, I will give you that. If it’s not renewable now, then expect worse to come. See this WSJ article on Germany’s expensive gamble.


“Average electricity prices for companies have jumped 60% over the past five years because of costs passed along as part of government subsidies of renewable energy producers. Prices are now more than double those in the U.S.”

Not a deep Thinker “See Through”,
Germany imports Natural gas from RUSSIA.

Think about that for a while.

Actually, for once “See Through” is correct. I guess Heck just froze over.

Talk about Clueless See Through, your quoting a rag published by Rupert Murdoch. ANYTHING environmental or progressive is always going to be bashed by right-wing hypocrites like Murdoch.

Well I will say that you have now thoroughly exposed yourself for what you are, pro- big oil hydrogen, anti-environmental, anti-EV.

This despite your lame claims to drive a Spark EV all the while making non-sensical anti-Tesla ragings all the while.

I say go back to your FAUX News, tea bagger loving crowd you undoubtedly hang out with and after the EV/Renewable energy revolution is over we will see if you just how much more bitter you have become.

I think the bulk of it has more to do with them shutting down all their nuclear plants before they are prepared with reasonable replacements (right now they have to build a bunch of new expensive coal/ng plants).

Your own article says the subsidy is only responsible for about 18% of the cost.

Where would *YOU* rather see us get our electricity from?

A reasonable question, I hope.

At current exchange rates, I pay about 0.06 USD per kWh for electricity which is 99% hydro and 1% wind.

As of 2/2/15

Gasoline prices in Germany are 2.27x the US national average.


If electric prices are double in Germany then the advantage for fueling BEVs are greater than the US.

Buying Supercharger Access should be an even bigger incentive in Germany.

What you say is certainly true, but the high gas prices are somewhat mitigated by the fact that the average European gas guzzler (or diesel guzzler) is a lot more fuel-efficient than the average American one. It’s hard to say just how much the difference is, because the European equivalent of our EPA’s MPG rating are so unrealistically high (see link below for details), but I think it’s likely that the average there is at least 50% higher than it is here.

So altho Germans are paying a lot more more per liter than Americans, on average they use considerably less.


That’s not really a problem. Don’t just compare US and GER electricity costs, compare the difference from gas price to electricity in both countries. It’s about the same level in GER and US.
And to install your own solar is so much more benefitial in Germany that way.

Ugliness never sells well.

Please see my numbers above, the BMW i3 is one of the best-selling EVs in Germany (not just for that month).

Germany is a hard market for all EVs, the i3 design is not the reason.

You nailed it. I saw a black i3 today and it looked boxy and ugly…it reminded me of a Chevy spark. It is designed to not compete with ICE BMW.

The i3 is ugly period.

Most cars are ugly. Period

Yes, these are important points. In my advocacy of EVs to replace ICE and displace fossil transport fuels for environmental outcomes, energy independence and local employment, I’ve learned that such advocacy needs to be prefaced with, after encouraging walking, cycling, and good public transport….

And haven’t the Germans done just that?
Increased walking, biking and by far better bus and train service then the US.

BMW never planned for it to be a big seller. It’s capabilities ( or lack thereof ) compared with it’s MSRP guarantee slow sales.

Watch for the automation gains and less workers needed for CFRP body and safety cell production to find it’s way into their gas gulper SUV and luxury ICE sedans. They told SAE and national press this was the end goal. Meeting C02, zero emission zone mandates was also a major impetus. You can sketch in the word, “compliance” now if you wish.

Expect an ICE-profit-machine company like BMW to lead in electric cars is like expecting a franchise system of selling cars NOT to fight Tesla’s system that sells a great car for a fair price.

Only 4 stars in EuroNcap!

only because it did not have a standard rear seat belt warning light.

The i3 was the highest selling EV by far in 2014 in Germany, and in fact the number of i3 sales in Germany was higher than any other EU country (and Norway). I wouldn’t call it not a sales success.

Right now BMW is production-limited on the i3 and priority is given to US-bound production (maybe the margin is better thanks to the weak Euro?), while European orders have a multi-month wait time.


I never thought I’d live to see it. A car publication that admits that cars make no sense in a properly designed city.

They make perfect sense for people to escape the city once in a while to “recharge” and to keep their sanity. Is the i3 a good car for such an escape?

Sure, if your village or hotel has a charger.

Absolutely. And for longer distances the Rex version is good. But this should be a rental, Why pay to store a car all year, for the few times a year you will need it?

EV’s sale badly in Germany because, as still in many places in Europe way to travel is to set your speed control at 85 Mph and relax back.
Something EV’s are still not good at. This week end I passed a Dutch registered Tesla in my USD 25K diesel. I would imagine that if you paid USD 100K for a car some owners my not like being continiously overtaken by cheap diesel cars driving 20 mph faster. I would at least.

I challenge you to race a Tesla from a complete stop to 60 mph in your diesel, you will lose badly.

Yep, the diesel will loose badly but laugh all the way to the bank to deposit the money he will save over the life of the vehicle. Try and drive any EV at anything like “Autobahn”-speed and you will see it’s limitations. A Diesel/Petrol-car will run at these speeds until you have to fill it up again.
Being a German and living in the US I don’t get people driving these big-engined cars only to be stifled by the 55,65 or even 75mph speed limits.
Don’t get me wrong, I have an EV (MiEV) and love it for what I need it to do (70mi roundtrip to work) but I would currently not buy an EV if I would be back in Europe. We (family of 4) never had 2 cars over there and traveled extensively by car all over Europe.

Yeah, the Tesla wins the 0-to-60 race handily. That takes about four seconds, if you floor it.

And for the rest of an hours-long journey on the Autobahn… the diesel beats the Tesla. Because the diesel can drive at its top speed without the driver having to worry about overheating the motor or running out of juice.

Much as I love Tesla cars, the drag-race acceleration after a stop is no substitute for the ability to go long distances at high speed on a limited access highway, without having to stop every 2 hours or so to recharge.

The Tesla Model S is unquestionably one of the best cars ever made, and there are many things it does better than any gas/diesel guzzler. Driving long distances on the Autobahn isn’t one of them.

Low sales in Germany are not a BMW or i3 specific problem, VW e-Golf, e-Up!, Mercedes B-class E-Drive and Smart ED (most Smart ED sales are from Mercedes own Car2Go sharing service) don’t sale much better.

When being the best seller by a large margin and outselling world wide top sellers like the Leaf, Model S and Outlander PHEV by 2-3 times as many sales the problem is not the model, the problem is the market.

Nobody has mentioned the lack of a rebate for EV purchases in Germany?

Just now I’ve become aware of Germany’s January 2015 private car sales. I was amazed that not one EV was on the list. The hurdle to get on the list was only about 150 vehicles.

So most EV sales are business related with the tax equalisation bonus (up to 10,000 euros) being the main sales driver. A private buyer gets only the 5yr circulation tax exemption.

Is business a target of gov’t policy for EVs, or is it just a way for government to avoid a direct rebate? Is money not received a better gov’t policy than money received and rebated as a bonus?

Merkel wants in no way to grant a bonus for the purchase of an electric vehicle.

and If there was no bonus for an electric car in France, we would sell none, zero.