The BMW i8 On Display At the 2012 London Olympic Pavilion

The BMW i8 On Display At the 2012 London Olympic Pavilion

Perhaps taking a page out of Nissan's playbook, BMW announced that it will be selling its upcoming i cars, the BMW i3 and i8 over the internet, which marks the first time the German automaker has made such an effort.

BMW i3 At London Olympics

BMW i3 At London Olympics

BMW also plans to have a roaming sales force of sorts, that patrols a limited network of high volume, high square footage dealerships in an effort to promote its new brand of electric cars.

The first i branded showroom, located in London, just recently opened its doors.  However, the best you can come away with at this point is some personal photos of the vehicles and some glossy brochures, as the two plug-ins are not yet available for purchase and neither have been priced.

The two models are also sporting a very high profile as an official Olympic partner, and have their own pavilion on site for participants and spectators alike to check out.

The BMW i3 is expected to fetch between $43,000 and $49,000, while the futuristic looking BMW i8, will fetch an amount north of $120,000 (100,000 euro).

BMW i8 To Be Sold Online

BMW i8 To Be Sold Online

It is estimated that BMW is spending about $3 billion dollars building and promoting its i brand, and given that BMW intends to sell 30,000 of the lower cost i3 in its first full year of production in 2013, BMW may have some fears internally that the electric vehicle industry is not all it has been purported to be.  Worldwide electric sales stood at 47,000 cars globally last year.  BMW has officially told InsideEVS that it is not backing down from its bold electric vehicle plans.

With selling on the internet, the drawback to the consumer is that they cannot actually see the cars themselves, but more specifically, they cannot test drive them, which may affect sales after the initial first wave of demand has been filled.

Reaching the mass audience from the internet is a significant hurdle, and one that Nissan has just experienced first hand attempting to sell their 73 mile range LEAF direct, and one Tesla will soon face with the Model S.  Nissan is now scrambling to fill dealership lots around the world with inventory, and has admitted to having to change their advertising and rollout plans for the car.

BMW dealerships who do elect to carry the i brand in stock will have some stiff demands put on them according to Ian Robertson, BMW's sales chief.

Direct sales will be focused in the world's major urban areas, and specifically at those dealerships who have displayed not only a high volume of sales for BMW, but who also have large footprint dealerships that can not only accommodate the cars themselves but "work with i models' powering technology and carbon-fiber body material."

In Germany, BMW has selected 45 of about 200 dealers to stock the brand, a ratio BMW expects to duplicate elsewhere.    Linda Croissant, a spokeswoman at Munich-based BMW, told Automotive News Europe that "details of how i-model buyers, the Web site and dealerships will interact are "still in the planning process," and will be communicated later".

The takeaway is, if you want an early BMW i3 or i8, get ready to reserve.

Automotive News Europe (sub)