BMW CEO Admits i8 Won’t Compete With Tesla Model S


It’s seems there’s an unspoken non-compete clause in the electric vehicle segment, as no automaker shows even a slight hint of messing with the Tesla Model S.

Model S Not in Sights of i8

Model S Not in Sights of i8

BMW says that its upcoming i8 sports car will enter a segment that’s soon to include several vehicles of the green variety, but this segment does not have the Model S in it.

As BMW’s North American CEO, Ludwig Willisch, says of the i8:

“This is the supercar of the future: It has the driving performance of an M3, but gets more than 80 miles per gallon.”

Willisch adds that the i8 is “a whole different animal” than the Model S. BMW’s CEO says the i8 “competes with different concepts,” none of which are similar to the Model S.

As BMW sees it, the i8 is basically in the supercar category, whereas the Model S is a family sedan.  Though BMW may be right, it’s likely that the Model S P85 could stand its own against the i8 on any track.

Soon we’ll find out, as BMW is now gearing up to launch the i8 in the US in early 2014.

In terms of pricing, the i8 certainly won’t compete with the Model S.  Willisch says the i8 will be less than $150,000.  How much less?  We’d guess not much.

Source: Automotive News

Categories: BMW, Tesla

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24 Comments on "BMW CEO Admits i8 Won’t Compete With Tesla Model S"

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“This is the supercar of the future: It has the driving performance of an M3, but gets more than 80 miles per gallon.”

– Ohh Kayy,

A $155,000 green M3 that seats 2


I think “can’t compete” is a better description of the situation.

“Willisch adds that the i8 is “a whole different animal” than the Model S. BMW’s CEO says the i8 “competes with different concepts,” none of which are similar to the Model S.”

~ I am NOT gonna say, “I told’ja so!” ….No, I am not. 🙂

My response to the CEO: ” uh, DUH! ”

One segment I wondered about was a Model S coupe version. Here’s this guy
implying a P85 just isn’t in the “performance” category of an i8 yet the
Tesla uses zero liquid fuel and goes 240 miles on electrons while outperforming
i8 on everything but top speed which even is becoming restricted on the
Autobahn these days….Hmmmm. Even before Model X, or shortly thereafter,
it seems only natural Tesla could shorten the skateboard and build a 2-door
Model S. At this point let the comparisons begin – and the 2-door Tesla would
outshine the carbon-plastic BMW in every way at approx. $50,000 less cost!

When a 5+2 seat fullsized luxury sedan outperforms this i8 on zero gasoline,
and a Tesla coupe surely would be more practical than the BMW also —–

You gonna pay $50,000 for that propeller logo?


For those of us who have been following Tesla for a long time, it is a foregone conclusion that the GenIII platform will yield a new Roadster. As the autocross post today points out, a full-size sedan format has its limits in the extreme performance category.

The only remaining question is whether that new roadster will come out before or after the GenIII SUV.

Sorry, but the Model S will _not_ compete with the i8 on a track unless it’s a short drag-strip. Very high-speed is not something it does.

Off the track, I don’t do not doubt that people will prefer the Model S.

Yet – how GREEN is horking a car around a track at max speed?

If you bough a car to hork around a track, there are SOOOO many more
that’ll do it better in every way than an i8. SO WHAT’S THE POINT?

I just can’t wrap my head around i8 or i3 for that matter.

Model S P85’ll hold it’s own with i8 on any road course racetrack. It has
hunks of torque and the performance suspension package’d tighten up
that i8 vs. Model S race very nicely.

Top speed? Who the bleep cares? You going to risk killing others and
losing your license to boast that you “once” had it up to 150?!!

Hey James. I hear ya on the i8. I think the i3 might very well find it’s niche. If it has Jay C. and Tom M.’s next purchase, then that is at least two. I think the future will show that the Volt, Leaf, Model S, 500e, C-Max, and yes the i3 lead many innovations that history will find EV noteworthy whether the sales are there or not. The i8… not so much.

I will also back that the i3 will hit a new niche. Suburban drivers that put tons of miles on the car commuting and don’t have much in the way of public quick charging. It allows them to reasonable do a 70 – 80 mile commute and a range extender for those days that you can’t plan for. Think of sales reps that visit customers all day criss-crossing a big city.

The question will be: will they value the extra performance, handling and range over a Volt for the extra sticker cost? Or performance and handling over a LEAF if range is not a concern?

Yeah, James, that’s what I’ve been saying about the i8. It is not a pure EV and has terrible electric range so the big EV fans won’t like it. But it has a plug and an electric motor so the gear-heads won’t like it. It might get caught in a no-man’s land.

I understand what you mean, but you have to consider a few things.

1. i8 type cars represent cool. If there is an electric drivetrain in there, it will be regarded as good by those who were lead to believe such are rubbish.
2. if someone is going to drive in a high-energy consuming way, it is good if it is less than it otherwise would be. Therefore I was glad to read that even Ferrari is also putting an electric drivetrain in one of there cars.

All this makes me wonder why other car companies choose not to compete with Tesla. I have some thoughts:

1) Disruptive to their dealerships – EV’s require very little maintenance and are generally more reliable. This would upset dealer and manufacturer unions and force a workforce reduction. It would also disrupt dealership repair/maintenance revenue models.

2) Oil Company Influence – Do the major producers own considerable stock in all the various car manufacturers?

I am not going to say service cost is the reason yet. If you look at Tesla’s service and extended warranty costs, it is more in line with luxury cars than Honda Civics.

I think the real reason is nobody else can figure out how to build an 85 kWh battery and stuff it into a car for less than $100k.

I think everyone else assumed that no one would buy a car stuff with 85KWH of batteries . . . it is not that hard to do. They were wrong.

Those service contracts for an EV are a rip-off . . . there is almost nothing to service on the car! But those people have the money so go ahead and take it from them.

Yeah, I don’t fully comprehend their service contracts, either…it seems to me that either 1) they are just being cautious, and/or 2) there are some things that are experimental, and they want to keep a close eye on long-term use.

don’t forget:

3.) Millions of man hours invested in R&D for new engines

4.) A design team that have only ever designed cars with engines and who probably all like engines

5.) A marketing team that have spent all of their days and billions of dollars telling everyone that the “sound track” of your car is important

I tend to agree with points 1-5. I would add that there are practical limits insofar as the major OEMs got caught with their pants down (some aren’t aware of it yet), and so Tesla got the tech and cost lead on the “competition.” Resources notwithstanding, it will take time to catch up.

The only competition that has any advantage over Tesla is BMW. Those lightweight, relatively cheap carbon-fiber based bodies are a huge cost/weight advantage. That will help their ICE segments lose pounds, as well, in order to keep up with efficiency standards.

Everyone is talking about the “Tesla Smile”. I first heard the “smile” comment on GM-Volt > “The Volt Smile” – it seems we all smile when we’re smooth, clean quiet and feel instant torque – petrol-free. Elsewhere on InsideEVs today is the article about the first 6 Model Ss being delivered to customers in Switzerland, and in German I can hear “Der Tesla Smile” in the introductory speech…lol…. But what also seems to be common is ” The Tesla Laugh ” as people just plain laugh out loud or shriek or squeal when they first feel that instant surge of silent rail-gun acceleration. I did. I was in a P85 with 3 large men inside going up a hill when he punched it and my neck snapped back! Wow! Hee Hee Heee! – It’s an unavoidable reaction. Another article here today is a video wherein a drummer talks about his Model S. At the very end of the vid his wife with camera in the back seat just lets out this cackle of joy as her husband punches it and she, like many, equate it to a modern extreme rollercoaster in experience. Can you see a future Tesla ad (… Read more »

James, your 3rd paragraph hits the nail squarely on the head.

As Tom A said in another thread, BMW could have made a 200 mile EV sedan and a hot roadster to compete with Tesla, but they didn’t.

Looking at the i3 from that perspective, it’s easy to see why some people are laughing at it, and it’s easy to see why none of the Old Guard automakers get it.
The i8, viewed from the same perspective, is even worse.

Yep, as far as I know, BMW battery packs are significantly more costly than Tesla’s per kWh, but with that innovative lightweight chassis, they wouldn’t need the same capacity that Tesla needs. How much different, and would it make up the cost to be competitive with Model S prices…I don’t know.

So he says the i8 cant compete with the Model S, but its 50,000 bucks more? lol

BMW sense of humor
BMW are a bit like needle watches that cost more than digital ones. They are only able to sell them though luxury image creation.

Let us suppose that i8 hit the Tesla Model S head on, who will live?
Is it not time to stop selling unsafe cars?
I think that any dealer or car maker that sells UNSAFE cars should be shut down.

A green car has no mileage.

Make no mistake… BMW aficionados will buy both the i3 with the two cylinder motorcycle engine and this i8. You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise.

But, that doesn’t mean other brands won’t pass them up. I clearly remember hearing about “Infiniti” and “Lexus” twenty years ago and saying, “those cars could never compete with BMW”.

Obviously, they can and did. But BMW is still here, and still doing quite nicely. The same will be true with Tesla and BMW, I think, for a LOOOOooooong time.