Since Its Launch, BMW i3 Is World’s #3 Best-Selling Electric Car*

NOV 13 2015 BY MARK KANE 58

BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW celebrates two years since the i3 went on sale in Germany in November 2013, followed by i8.

According to BMW, the i3 has become the third best-selling electric car worldwide.

“Munich. Two years after it went on sale, the BMW i3 has established itself at the pinnacle of its segment worldwide. In Germany, one in every four electrically-powered vehicles sold since then has been a BMW i3, globally it is one in 10. In the listings of the most popular EV models, the BMW i3 occupies third place on a world-wide basis since its market launch in November 2013. The most important single market for the all-electric five-door is the USA, where it ranks third as well. In Norway the BMW i3 has been the best-selling model across the entire BMW range in the current year.”

*Asterisk time…It’s important for us to note that for comparison BMW excluded other plug-in models with ICE engine, and included the range-extender version of the i3 in with all-electric cars (without ICE backup). Solely in Germany, REx accounts for 50% of all i3 sales this year, which makes a big difference and is misleading for those comparing apples to apples.

Anyways, i3 is now produced at over 100 units a day, while i8 reached a relatively high volume of over 20 units per day. The i3 is also available in 49 countries.

BMW i3 + i8 sales worldwide - October 2015

BMW i3 + i8 sales worldwide – October 2015

BMW i3

BMW i3 & i8

In China, BMW i3 is available tax-free and avoids the local licence plate lotter, according to BMW:

“Its ability to respond to the individual requirements of customers and national legislation in the various countries also explains how the BMW i3 is the only imported electric vehicle in China which can be purchased tax-free and avoids the hurdles presented by the local licence plate lottery. For Japan a special version of the BMW i3, tailor made to accommodate the low height of the car parking spaces there, had been developed.”

A positive note is that more than 80% of the BMW i3 customers worldwide come from other brands.

“Crucial element within the success story of the BMW i3 has been that it is the only EV worldwide with an optional Range Extender. In many cases – especially among customers who still had their reservations about buying an electric car – the choice of the additional small combustion engine tipped the balance in favour of the BMW i3.

BMW i3

BMW i3

With the creation of the BMW i brand and the decision to develop a purpose-built vehicle architecture, as well as passenger cells made from carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) and BMW eDrive technology for electric drive systems, the BMW Group has taken on a pioneering role in the field of personal mobility. Both the BMW i3 – designed to provide locally emission-free mobility in urban areas – and the trailblazing BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car blend the joy of driving with a premium character that is focused squarely on sustainability and also involves a resource-friendly approach to materials selection and manufacturing.
This all-encompassing strategy and the compelling product attributes have helped BMW i to become the most awarded brand in automotive history during launch phase.

The BMW i3 meets the needs of demanding target groups who combine an appreciation for sustainable mobility with a desire for a driving experience that is both sophisticated and rich in emotional appeal. Its progressive design, intelligent lightweight construction, groundbreaking drive system technology and innovative connectivity turn locally emission-free mobility into a fascinating experience, opening up whole new groups of buyers to the BMW Group.

BMW i3

BMW i3

The success of the BMW i models offers clear evidence of the growing interest in sustainable personal mobility while also providing a valuable shot in the arm for the infrastructure development still required. Achieving even greater market penetration of all-electric and plug-in hybrid drive systems depends not only on attractive cars but also on an expansion of the network of public charging stations and the creation of other infrastructure-related elements. Positive examples of how the impact of electric mobility can be increased to good effect through infrastructure measures and public incentives can be found in countries such as Norway and the Netherlands.”

BMW i cars worldwide (estimation) - October 2015

BMW i cars worldwide (estimation) – October 2015

Categories: BMW, Sales

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

58 Comments on "Since Its Launch, BMW i3 Is World’s #3 Best-Selling Electric Car*"

newest oldest most voted

” BMW excluded other plug-in models with ICE engine, and included the range-extender version of the i3 in with all-electric cars”

First VW’s cheating, now this. What happened to the Germany that used to be so precise about everything?

Gnah, precision only leads to reality – and some people don’t like that 😉
They should at least have included the Volt…

Hahaha, BMW employed a “rankings defeat device” 🙂

I guess the Germans nowadays are so busy inventing new math to explain why the Greeks should never get a deal remotely similar to the one they got from the US after WWII – that their precision has gone out the window. (oops, sorry, politics)

If you care to know what’s the i3’s *true* ranking since launch, then using #’s from the EV sales blog, the i3 seems to be at #6. Besides the Leaf and Model S, it is also beaten by the Outlander PHEV, the BYD Qin and (narrowly) the Volt.

Well that “rankings defeat device” does not only include inclusion of REX but also buying their own cars and then selling it as “Tageszulassung”… It’s a common method that most car makers use to raise sales numbers. There is even a law regulating those “Tageszulassung”-cars …

Could you provide a link to the EV sales blog you are referring to?

The i3 REx has more than twice the electric range as any other PHEV (and only a few percent less than the BEV), so it’s weird to put it in the same category as PiP for example. Once there are more long-range PHEVs it will be easier to categorize the REx.

@Mutwin, I guess you missed the memo about Gen 2 Volt having 53 miles electric range (EPA). That’s about 3/4 the i3 REx.

In terms of which comparison is adequate, I suggest that those who live in glass houses don’t hurl rocks etc. etc. From what I’ve read about i3’s behavior/performance when REx kicks in and when it’s about to run out, you’re treading on thin ICE there 🙂
By comparison, the Volt under extended range works like a rather high-performing hybrid, for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

Bottom line, half of the i3’s sold have an ICE engine, and an electric range shorter than any major BEV except the outdated MiEV. So any rankings involving i3 must include other plug-in cars with ICE engines and relatively short ranges.

“From what you’ve read”… Virtually all the complaints about driving on REx power are perpetuated by people who haven’t driven an i3 and/or don’t like them for whatever reason. Unless you want to drive up a mountain at highway speeds with a low SOC (bad planning) or drive 80mph+ for an extended period (bad planning), you’ll never even know the REx is on. It drives exactly the same as when it has a full charge, other than the sound of a Scooter/Motorcycle tailgating you at times. I know, I’ve cruised at 70mph for an hour or so on REx, and still had normal passing power. It’s an extremely rare situation to lose power made to seem like par-for-the-course during REx mode by people who don’t know or want to belittle the i3 for some reason.

I agree that we’re splitting hairs now saying that an i3 REx is some other kind of EV than a Volt, but all the heresay about REx-mode turtle mode are just pathetic on the part of fellow EV owners.

“I know, I’ve cruised at 70mph for an hour or so on REx, and still had normal passing power.”

I guess you don’t live in the West Coast or you don’t drive from SF to Lake Tahoe in your i3 REx on hwy I-80 then.

It is nice drive, you should try it sometimes. =)

Again, an extreme example that applies to a tiny percentage of people, as usual. A 380-mile round trip through the mountains. EV owners complain that people don’t consider EVs based on extreme examples (I need WAY more than 80 miles of range!!), but then come up with extreme examples to bash other EVs.

I’m not saying the i3 is the perfect car for every situation. If you’re driving to Tahoe often, get a Volt or a Tesla. If you need a truck bed, an i3 is a bad choice for that, too. However, for the vast majority of people who don’t drive mountain passes OR have a second vehicle, the i3 REx gives them seamlessly more range for the occasion where 80 miles AER doesn’t cut it.

The i3 rex is primarily a battety electric car with a backup device in case you lose run out of charge. I use it in much the same way as a bev except not have any range anxiety at all of I need a few extra emergency miles or if a planned charging stop failed. You would not go cross country up mountain ranges with an 80 mile bev and you shouldn’t with the rex. It was never advertised for such use. On normal highways it is almost impossible to run our of power as you are not constantly accelerating and start cruising once target speed is reached. This requires relatively little energy even at 80mph.
Many opinions are coming from non owners who work out in theory what should happen. Similar to those who criticise the tesla not being able to sustain max acceleration for extended periods. Once you reach your target speed relatively little power is needed to sustain highway speeds.

Um…you would not go cross country or up mountain ranges with an 80 mile range BEV, Wayne?

Perhaps you haven’t been keeping up with current events, but my 2013 Leaf “S” did just fine in crossing its 16,600th mile of an every-state-capitol cross country road trip climbing Pikes Peak yesterday. Of course, I only have 45k miles on the battery, so it remains to be seen whether a “limited range” BEV will be able to travel anywhere its owner likes with 100k or so on the battery…

…oh, but wait…by the time a normal user reaches 100k miles on a BEV, the charging infrastructure will be much more advanced than it is now.

The Age of ICe is OVER. Electric vehicles whose owners pay a modicum of attention to their driving can go anywhere they like anytime they like. Let’s stop perpetuating the unfounded assertion that these cars can only be used by commuters.

When the “but I know it can’t go cross country” comments come from EV drivers, they’re especially damaging. What’s more, they’re simply not true.

Check out the Negative Carbon Roadtrip for an amazing list of hundreds of places that you never took your gas car and probably never will.

No one is precise when it comes to marketing ‘puffery’ about their own products.

Yes, but this “#3” claim sets a new low even in that genre.

ggpa said:

”BMW excluded other plug-in models with ICE engine, and included the range-extender version of the i3 in with all-electric cars”

The latter, at least, seems to be the best way to count them. Bolting on a gas-powered scooter motor doesn’t change the fact that the i3 was designed to be a BEV; and it’s a well-designed and well-engineered BEV. That scooter motor is only intended to provide a limp-home mode after the battery is exhausted… despite what is claimed in multiple articles posted by enthusiastic i3 REx owners to InsideEVs.

The BMW i3 is one of the few well-engineered BEVs being sold today. It wasn’t designed to be a PHEV, bolting on a scooter motor doesn’t turn it into a fully functional PHEV, and it shouldn’t be counted as a PHEV.

(Obviously this is only my opinion… not fact.)


1) The words are Mark Kane’s not mine. I do agree with them 100%

2) I agree with your statement that the BMW i3 is well engineered. But that is not the issue here.

3) The issue is that BMW is engaging in self serving, specious behavior to claim a ranking that they do not earn.

4) Be suspicious of anybody that has one rule for himself and another rule for others.

5) Rather than trying to beat Volt & Outlander by slight of hand, BMW should see what it can learn from them.

At least on paper, SparkEV is about 80%-90% that of i3: eg: 6.5sec 0-60 vs 7.2sec, 6.6kW L2 vs 3.3kW, gas cooling vs liquid, both CCS, about 82 miles range.

But the pricing for i3 is double SparkEV after subsidy, 32K for i3 vs 16K for SparkEV. If GM had put SparkEV on global market, would it have done better than i3? I guess we’ll never know…

Spark is a compliance car reluctantly sold in the minimum quantities necessary to meet their CARB goals. As such it doesn’t count. Can’t tell if its sold at a loss or profit. Spark is also a tiny car that gets blown around easily.

Why is compliance car a dirty word if it’s good? It performs better than all EV other than Tesla and i3, has probably highest head room than any BEV (hence blown easily), cheapest EV that gets over 80 miles range, AND comes with DCFC. In many respects, it’s better than most dedicated BEV such as Leaf and eGolf, especially when it comes to DCFC speed.

As for cost, they did minor mod to existing Spark gas version while Leaf is big change from Versa that it is based on. Pricing for SparkEV is only few thousand less than base Leaf. I doubt Chevy is losing much money, if at all. But then GM isn’t run by Carlos, so they might be losing tons of money on it.

I doubt the low availability is due to it being “compliance car.” GM probably doesn’t want SparkEV eating into 200,000 EV limit for federal EV subsidy; they already used up over half with Volt, and they probably want to save it for upcoming Bolt.

I think it unfair to just lump the Spark in as just a compliance car, for I think it was more than that.
More like it was a scouting effort by GM, a smart move, to gauge the actual demand for evs. Without the Spark I am not sure that GM would have made such an effort with the forthcoming Bolt. It even fits with the naming methodology. You need a spark to get things going in the ev revolution.

An interesting story told by Tesla forum member is in my latest blog post: SparkEV destiny. It seems Spark pregenitor’s original concept started its life to be an EV.

Cool. I had no idea of its progeny.

The Spark is a compliance car, there should be no discussion about that. GM originally promised “wide” availability, then reneged.

The ZEV credit requirements jump two orders of magnitude over the next several years. 30k production of the Bolt might be what it takes to meet compliance. I am still not convinced you will be able to walk into any Chevy dealer and buy a Bolt.

Let’s hope they don’t pull the same move as the Spark.

SparkEV compliance car sold in Mexico at LOWER PRICE than what they sell in compliance states? Why would Chevy do that if it’s only for compliance? GM had planned to sell in Canada, too. Not sure why they canceled it, but if it was compliance car why would they even discuss such a thing?

If the SparkEV wasn’t a compliance car, why would GM not sell it in Texas, Florida or any other major US auto market in the US? Or even Washington state which has a large BEV market?

The answers they are only producing enough to accumulate the required credits needed. Otherwise they would be stuck buying credits from Tesla and Nissan.

There is more to the Mexico story, GM is not profiting on this extremely low production vehicle. The price is likely a reflection of the maximum they can charge in that market and make sales.

If GM is losing money from Mexico sales, and they are not required to sell in Mexico, why lose extra money to sell compliance car there? That makes no sense. Just the fact that it’s sold outside of compliance makes it non-compliance car.

Tesla isn’t available in every single country in the world, so that makes Tesla a compliance car? Of course not. It’s because it’s sold in at least one non-compliance required place.

But it doesn’t matter. Compliance car or not, if it’s good, it’s good, especially at the price/performance of SparkEV.

Also, this article says $32k for a SparkEV in Mexico,

I am pretty sure this is the reason they are on sale down there now,

But quick Google searching couldn’t find the financial incentive for GM (Other than an extra $10k on the sticker price). Perhaps they are planning to fill their credits faster with the Bolt and do not need all of the SparkEV production they have planned.

SparkEV in Mexico peso converted to USD is $23K. Instead of looking at some blog, you should look at official Chevy web site.

What does Mexico city pollution have to do with SparkEV selling for cheaper than compliance states? If anything, Chevy should sell it for more in Mexico if they are indeed losing money by selling in compliance states. One reason would be that it’s not a compliance car (ie, sold ouside of compliance state). But you’d never believe it since you seem to have religious belief that “SparkEV is compliance car”: logic and reason goes out the window.

But again, so what if it’s compliance? I don’t subscribe to religion that places evil in compliance cars; heck, I’d even like Fiat500e if it came with DCFC and cost $7000 less.

Here’s another reason why SparkEV is compliance car. It’s been available in Canada for 2 years for fleet, and 2016 will be available in retail. Compliance car sold in Mexico and Canada? Yeah right!

SparkEV the “compliance car” is also sold in Korea.

I wonder where Fiat500e is sold outsside of compliance states in US.

The SparkEV is built in Korea, so it would make sense to sell it there.

I don’t have a problem with compliance cars, but I do take issue with people comparing the value proposition of California only cars with PEVs that are available nationwide. California is only roughly 10% of the auto market (1.8 million / 16.5 million 2014).

I want to see all consumers have a chance to buy PEVs.

SparkEV asked:

“Why is compliance car a dirty word if it’s good?”

1. Because the auto maker has no intention of producing them in large numbers, so the average person can’t buy one, and the model will have no real impact on fossil fuel use or emissions of air pollution or CO2.

2. Because the price it’s given is disconnected from the actual manufacturing cost. All compliance cars are sold at a loss, so their price can’t be properly compared to cars which are intended to make a profit for the auto maker.

No offense, SparkEV, and I’m glad that you like your car. Congratulations for being one of the few who managed to get one.

But your experience isn’t something the average person can share. It’s little different from someone making a conversion EV in his garage. It’s nice that he managed to do so, but it’s not going to have a measurable impact on oil consumption, nor on global emissions of air pollution or CO2.

First, SparkEV is sold in more than just compliance states (eg. cheaper in Mexico). So the argument that it’s a compliance car is wrong.

Second, even if it’s compliance car, so what? If it’s better and cheaper than “normal” EV, one should buy it instead of “normal” EV. Compliance or not, it doesn’t make any difference.

Third, if the compliance car took the spot of gas car that would’ve been there, that’s still better in terms of imported oil savings (and CO2 if you care abou that; I don’t). Compliance or not, it doesn’t make any difference.

Fourth, if compliance car is losing money for “evil” carmaker, all the more reason you should buy compliance car (if cheaper/better than “normal” EV) to hurt those evil ones. Buying compliance car is actually better.

As for your CO2 and blah, move closer to work and shops and simply walk/bike if you care so much. I drive EV because it’s cheap and beneficial to me financially, nothing to do with CO2. Far greater satisfaction I get is from reduced imported oil and laughing at gas prices.

They now sell them in Mexico. A big market for EVs…

In Norway the Spark EV would sell great.

It’s listed at MP399,000, which is about $23K USD. That’s without subsidy. In US, it’s listed at $26K. If it’s compliance car that loses money, there’s no reason to sell it for less in Mexico and lose even more money.

Conclusion? Chevy is making about $3K for each SparkEV sold in US (11.5% profit), probably more if you consider profit in Mexico sales. Wow, that’s in Carlos Ghosn territory! I’m beginning to like Mary, too!

SparkEV said:

“Conclusion? Chevy is making about $3K for each SparkEV sold in US (11.5% profit)…”

Reality check: No auto maker makes a profit on a compliance car.

For example, a Nissan spokesman said shortly after the Leaf went on sale that they hoped to start making a profit in the third year of sales. And that’s for the worldwide #1 selling BEV. A low-priced car sold in much, much smaller numbers — like the Spark — can’t possibly be sold for as much as it costs to make. To make a profit on a car model made in such small numbers, it has to be priced like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini.

Reality check? Chevy is purposely losing even more money in Mexico than in CA? Why would they do that?

Reality is, SparkEV probably cost very little from SparkGas ($15K 1LT + $1K?), but battery ($300/kWh =$6K?) adds cost. Realistic would be $21K, Mexico profit $1K, US profit heck of a lot more!

Fiat500e could do the same, except they outsourced the conversion. Combined with 6.6kW L2 + 24kWh + third party entire electric drive train shot the price through the roof.

Some people prefer some semblence of luxury and tech in their cars:
Things the i3 has that is not in the Spark:
LED headlights and tail lights
Built in Navigation
Included DCQC standard
Heated seats (Spark standard feature?)
Park distance sensor
CFRP technology

Bottom line..the i3 is quicker, more luxurious,roomier, AND more efficient than the Spark EV

And available options in the i3 not avail in the Spark:
Auto parking
Active cruise
HK premium audio
Wood trim
Leather seats And dash trim
Backup Camera

If you want all those fluff, sure go for i3. It’s really a nice car, far better than Leaf. But as basics go, SparkEV is 80% to 90% of i3 while costing half as much (about $16,000 cheaper). Many would rather save money and skip the fluff.

But how do people live without auto parking option? Goodness, those SparkEV drivers must be masochists!

Sorry man, glad you like you car but it is insane to call a Spark 80-90% of an i3 unless you are unable to comprehend the difference between “economy” and “luxury”.

What are the first two top selling cars? LEAF and Tesla Model S?


Yes, for bevs.

I think the Renault Zoe does lead in front of the i3 and is the real number 3. (Not counting Chinese Small EV). The Zoe had some softer sales last year, but started with 8500 sales in advance from the earlier launch.

In Hindi there is a saying, “Andho me kaana rajah”, I.e., amongst the blind, one eyed becomes a king.

Is the i3 only a big seller in Germany because it’s made there? Didn’t the Germans not like the Model S because they said it couldn’t do 100mph on the autobahn for a long period of time, but the same can be said about the i3. Or is it because the Germans see the Model S as a sports car and the i3 as an electric car?

Sales in Germany are very poor. Only the start was OK. It’s massive down YtY.

Well, the i3 is a Megacity car, so perhaps cars in that class aren’t expected to be able to cruise at 150 mph for long stretches. Cars in the Model S’s class (MB S, BMW 7, Audi A8), however, are.

Just self promotional pablum from BMW, suspect on a number of levels.
Still the i3 is not a bad effort. Worthy of consideration, just don’t buy the hype.

We’ll see where they are 6 months after the Model ≡ debuts.

Second gen i3 will probably be out by the time the Model ≡ is being produced in significant numbers.

They’d better have gen 2 on deck by then, and they’d better bring their A+ game.

I wonder if VW bundles the sales results of there electric golf and the plug-in hybrid golf together the way that BMW does it?

So how are Chinese garage ceilings if an i3 is too tall?

By far, most Chinese live in apartment buildings, even in villages. For those lucky enough to actually find a parking lot within walking distance of home, and manage to rent a parking stall there, it’s almost certainly a large underground parking lot, so there shouldn’t be any problem with low ceilings.

The hardest problem which the i3 owner will have in China is that it’s very difficult or impossible to get a parking lot owner to install an EV charger, and reserve that for the EV owner’s personal use.

Imagine how well the i3 would sell if it had better range and styling?

BMW needs to refresh the i3 ahead of the Bolt, LEAF 2 and Model 3 launch or they will be sitting on dealer lots collecting dust.

Model year ’17 i3s will be refreshed and have increased range. That’s already been announced. Additionally, it’s likely that the REx will have increased range, as well, to match the AER, giving it significantly more total range, as well.