BMW CEO: US i3 Sales to be a “Couple Thousand” in 2014


BMW i3 Live in Detroit

BMW i3 Live in Detroit

We now finally have an estimate first year sales figure for the BMW i3 in the US: a “couple thousand.”

BMW i3 Live in Detroit

BMW i3 Live in Detroit

That’s according to BMW North America CEO Ludwig Willisch who told Bloomberg that BMW expects to sell a “couple thousand” i3s in the US this year.

Willisch added:

“The U.S. will be the biggest BMW i market in the world.  Will we get enough cars in the first year? Probably not.  Again, that’s a nice problem to have.”

A “couple thousand” i3s is certainly not enough to fulfill US demand and we’re not so sure it’s a “nice problem to have” less vehicles than there is demand for.

BMW could lose sales to other automakers due to an i3 shortage in the US.  We sense that some buyers won’t be willing to wait 6 months to a year to get i3 orders fulfilled.

But if asked how many i3s are expected to be sold in the US this year, you now have an answer: a “couple thousand.”

Source: Bloomberg

Categories: BMW

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35 Comments on "BMW CEO: US i3 Sales to be a “Couple Thousand” in 2014"

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Lets hope the global total will hit 5-digits at least in 2014.

A couple of thousand puts it in the territory of compliance cars.

Wow, I wonder who predicted this outcome? Remember 100,000 orders, first production premium EV, and all the other outlandish claims? CHAdeMO and Tesla Supercharger were “niche” players, while the GM / German Frankenpkug was “it”? They could build 30,000 – 40,000 per year?

It all boils down to a simple game that I’ve been forecasting for some time; the German auto makers must build some minimum number of ZEV’s in California and other CARB states starting in model year 2015.

It’s no surprise to me that they’ll do exactly that. Frankenplug, my dear friends, is all but DEAD ON ARRIVAL in the USA.

Seems so obvious and yet scary. The EV future seems to solely rely upon Tesla and Nissan. Nissan is really the outlier. Everyone else is doing the minimum necessary to comply.

Indeed. We might need to add Mitsubishi, if it manages to get back in the game this year with its much-cheaper i-MiEV. I hope it’ll sell well.

BMW have not invested upwards of a billion Euros in three continents setting up electric car production to produce a compliance car.
Low initial numbers as they build up production should not be confused with what the longer term intention is for this car.
By ‘longer term’ I mean after the first year.
Anyone who looks at the scale of investment BMW have put in should know this.

Nevertheless, until i3 sales are not artificially limited by BMW, the i3 will remain a “compliance car” in every sense of the definition.

Where is your evidence that they are being artificially limited by BMW?
That is not even a rational action by them, as it would be deeply stupid for them to do so after pouring so much money into development.

Not many sales are expected in Europe in the first year either.
It will simply take BMW time to get production running full speed.

Your desire to trash the CCS plug by calling it “Frankenplug” is silly. In fact, the CHAdeMO plug is larger and much more difficult to maneuver than the CCS plug. And it’s time to face the facts: Only one manufacturer of any substance supports the CHAdeMO standard, while nearly every European and U.S. manufacturer supports the CCS standard. If you think the CCS standard is going away because you want to call it “Frankenplug”, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The CCS standard is here to stay.

CCS, especially its US variant, is much taller than CHAdeMO, although narrower. They have comparable surface area. Unless you have personal experience with both CCS and current CHAdeMO plugs (e.g. not just the 5-year-old Yasaki v1), I don’t think you’re qualified to talk about which one is more ergonomic. It matters little which or how many manufacturers support which standard, when most don’t even produce EVs, or only compliance cars, or don’t offer DC quick charging. Currently the only two companies selling EVs in meaningful numbers in the US are Nissan and Tesla. Incidentally, they’re also the only ones serious about charging infrastructure. All of their cars sold with DC quick-charging can use CHAdeMO. We can debate which manufacturer might claim #3 spot this year (BMW, Mitsubishi?) or the next (Kia, VW, Infiniti?). Some will offer CCS, others CHAdeMO, but I don’t see any of them getting anywhere close to the numbers of Nissan and Tesla, let alone catch up with their 63k cars lead (as of end of 2013; yeah I tossed 1k i-MiEVs in there too). Toyota, Fiat, Smart, Mercedes aren’t even trying, none of their cars quick-charges; two have partnerships with Tesla though… What would you say… Read more »
This must be the factual challenge! Ah, neither all the American, nor all the European auto manufacturers adopted Frankenplug. I can always tell when somebody has learned the talking points, but not the facts. In the US, the only US based auto maker that gives even PR support is GM. Tesla Motors (a genuine American car company) will never adopt Frankenplug. Neither Ford, nor Fiat / Chrysler, have any publicized plans to offer a Frankenplug car, and both produce EV’s in minimum numbers for CARB-ZEV, just like GM does. I personally don’t include Fiat as a US company, but maybe you do. Fiat is now a majority owner of Chrysler, are based in Europe (and plans to be based in UK to save on taxes) and they do not endorse Frankenplug. As to “all of Europe”, I find it odd how many times that I point out to folks that the five auto makers from Germany aren’t all of Europe. But, to some people, maybe they are! I do know how many of them are actively producing, or planning to produce, a Frankenplug car in volume; one, BMW. We know know how many of those we will get this year.… Read more »

Don’t be so hard on him for calling the ccs plug the Frankenplug. Develop a sense of humor about it. I for one ,,, for one reason or another have a hard time remembering the term ‘ccs’ But ‘Frankenplug’? That’s easy for me to remember. So I like to go with it. Besides! It’s kinda funny.

Why does everything seem to turn into a debate about Chademo vs SAE-Combo? meh.

Which is odd given how significant an investment it is.
Not sure what their thinking is here. Maybe fear of recall.

If they lease at the prices that I have seen quoted they wont sell any. The whole idea for most people when they drive electric is to save money. If the car costs more than a 3 series to operate why would you drive one. Less range, slower to fill up, handles worse and is not as good looking.

That’s bad news, if supply constraints are part of the message, but I don’t think they are. They saw the Volt targets sour, and are planning to get lots of marketing miles from, beating “2,000”. They know not to give news outlets that bone.

There’s never been a company in EV history get as much media as BMW has with the i3. I have to give them credit, they are true masters of media!!! Maybe the GM EV1, but a lot of that publicity was not very positive 🙁

GM gets honorable mention for their recent “sales exceeding their wildest dreams” line of BS while they pound out 600 Spark EV’s in South Korea for all of 2013. That car was going to sold all over the planet, too, remember? And then it whittled down to just two CARB states. Less than 100 per month.

This thing is going to be fresh meat for a 150 mile range Nissan Leaf and its’ going to get sat on by a rhino when Tesla comes out with their generation three 200 mile range EV.

I really don’t find this car that impressive in that it has a 80 mile range and a $45,000 dollar price tag. For this thing to be impressive it has to have a 160 mile range and a $45,000 price tag. This car is a car that is a over priced Nissan leaf but they act like they are a Tesla when they are not.

If Tesla somehow was able to introduce a 120 to 140 kilowatt battery pack for their cars and shifted the 60 kilowatt battery pack down to a cheaper bracket in the model S to where they offer a low end version of the model S at the same the price as their 40 kilowatt battery pack version for $49,000 that they dropped they could pancake this thing into the ground.


The Leaf is definitely cheaper, but it’s also uglier, less refined, slower, and has a poorly engineered battery. The relative value of each car depends on the priorities of the shopper, not just range and price.

I don’t mind the front or the sides of the leaf but I don’t really care for the butt on it. personally I like the Tesla model S and the Mitsubishi i-mev which had a lot of unexpected room inside of them.

Range isn’t everything. The Coda had pretty good range.. How many people were lining up to buy those?

The $45K price (base) would include the range extender, so technically the range would be 180 miles.

Technically… the range is anything you want with an oil car like the i3 w/ oil range extender. Just put in a bigger tank.

Or just put in bigger batteries?
From the OEM, it has ~2.5 gallon tank. Cars are rated on their range w/the OEM tanks.

I see no evidence that the problem is “Production Constraints”. I see, “Demand Failure.”

Adverse issues of design, range, pricing and extravagant claims, have turned potential buyers
attention to other cars. Tesla S, Chevy Volt, and Nissan Leaf, offer buyers the qualities they want at levels of cost that they can afford or as some would say, “the car I have chosen offers real value!”
BMW simply over promised and failed to deliver. Now all they are producing to meet non existent demand is “Publicity.”

Please show your evidence that there is a demand failure before dismissing BMW’s claim of production constraints.

It may seem to some easy, but in fact starting production of a new product using cutting edge technologies such as carbon fibre in the car industry is difficult and complicated, and BMW has to take it steady to make sure they get it right.

And yet Tesla set up an entire factory from a company that never had a factory and went to 2000 per month production pretty quick (months).

Now, I heard they are ramping to 800 per week.

Tesla took 5 months to get to 100 Model S’s per month and 7 months to get over 1,000/mo. Nothing wrong with that as it was a completely new vehicle and they were basically a new company. The i3 is totally new for BMW and the manufacturing process is unlike anything they have done before, there are videos about it. They only started making it in November, I would bet they have a similar production schedule to ensure quality as Tesla did. Remember they are simultaneously supplying about a dozen countries so naturally they production is going to be way behind demand for at least the first 8 to 10 months.

To give BMW the benefit of the doubt, they may be planning to sell a lot of i3s in Europe. I would be interested to see what their global production will be for 2014.

However, I completely agree with Ocean Railroader. If BMW gets cute playing the “Standing Room Only” game, they are going to see EV competitors eat their lunch. The BMW brand cache won’t matter much, when new models match the i3’s performance and double it’s range.

How do you know BMW will stick with the same battery?
They could as well double the range as others, which would make it one heck of a car.

How does 2000/year affect BMW’s statement that “the i3 will be profitable from day 1”? Remember when everyone was saying GM was losing $50,000 on every Volt because they were dividing the development costs over the first initial sales instead of the life of the product and spin-off products. Will BMW get this same treatment when they’ve invested all this money for only 2000 annual sales? (my guess is no)

Many companies do not allocate R & D to any specific product line.
Legendary innovators such as GE did not do so in their heyday.

The payback costs for the factory build for the carbon fibre plants etc are also clearly not what BMW is talking about,

They will be referring to the costs per car ex development and factory build – the marginal unit cost.

consider the i3 to be a ZOE competitior,
oh wait, no ZOE in USA.

perhaps Mitsubishi iMiEV competitor (seats 4, RWD, similar dimension and weight)
Mitsubishi i is worlds 2nd most sold EV, hardly any sold in USA.
who wants a BMW priced kei car?

Lots of resemblances to the Edsel disaster – quirky styling, strange design choices (suicide doors, CF abundance, inconveniently located charge port), loads of pre-intro publicity followed by lukewarm public reception – and now people are surprised at the low sales projections?