When BMW introduced its i family, it was proud to present the Life module, made of carbon fiber, and of the Drive module, an aluminum chassis that had the suspension and electric powertrain. It appears BMW is now done with the strategy and wants to get back to steel. Or “into the mainstream”, as Pieter Nota, member of the board of management at BMW for sales told Auto Express.
This is the excuse for leaving the i family behind. BMW will not explicitly admit that it made a serious judgment mistake related to EVs. Both in terms of volume, production strategy and, more than that, customers' demand.
Although it claimed it could produce the i3 and its carbon fiber components in high numbers, it is probably much more expensive than it would be acceptable. BMW even gave journalists a keyholder made of carbon fiber to reinforce it had mastered its production process.
Reality kicked in with a small car that is not very practical – with suicide rear doors that only open when the front doors are already opened. It also presents quality problems, such as door handles that do not stick to the doors – always use them very carefully – and very reduced production numbers. Even if they grow year after year.
In May 2019, the i3 reached the 150,000 units milestone. And it is produced since 2013. Tesla has beaten that number already with the Model S, a much more expensive EV. It has had more than 260,000 units made since 2012. The Model 3 has already surpassed this figure in 2018 alone.
In 2013, who would say Tesla could sell more EVs than a well-established company such as BMW? This is the sort of shame Volkswagen is not willing to endure with the I.D. family, hence the heavy investments in bringing it to market.
Harald Krüger, the man behind the strategy change, already announced his resignation, effective next year. An article from The Verge states his exit is probably due to his responsibility in losing the EV edge BMW had with the i family.
One of the reasons he gave for resigning was the "enormous changes" the automotive industry is facing. EVs, anyone? Ironically, he may be the one who saw BMW needed EVs with higher production output, such as the future iX3. Even if the new Mini Cooper SE says otherwise.
Anyway, BMW will never admit such a flaw in the strategy. Hence Nota’s repetitive remarks that “what we are seeing now is that electrification is moving more into the mainstream”.
That said, the i3 has two alternatives ahead: to die a peaceful death – little by little, in some years or months – or to become an EV that will have many generations only with subtle changes, such as the Renault Zoe. According to BMW, the second option is more likely. What do you believe that lies ahead for BMW’s former little carbon fiber promise?
Source: Auto Express