We Chat With BMW’s i Brand Boss – Jose Guerrero At The NY Auto Show

APR 14 2017 BY TOM MOLOUGHNEY 48

BMW iPerformance Vehicles Prominently Featured At NYIAS 2017

I had the opportunity to sit down with BMW NA’s top man when it comes to electric vehicles, Jose Guerrero at this year’s New York International Auto Show. Guerrero is BMW i’s North American Product & Operations Manager, and has been working in BMW’s electric vehicle programs since the ActiveE pilot program began in 2011.

BMW North America’s Electrified Boss – Jose Guerrero

Just before we started the interview, it was announced that the BMW i3 was named the inaugural winner of the World Urban Car Award, so I asked Guerrero for his thoughts on the i3 winning yet another award.

“I think it’s a testament to the car. Even though we’re making incremental improvements, like software updates and offering a moonroof, the only real dramatic improvement we’ve made is the addition of the 94 Ah battery.

That said, the car is still remaining relevant with the backdrop of increased competition in this segment. So, to see the continued accolades for a car that launched over three years ago is a good sign, and rewarding to us. But we’re not stopping; we’re continuing with product improvements on a fairly short basis, verses the traditional BMWs.”

Slightly Facelifted/Updated BMW i3 Spyshots from last month

There isn’t much more news to report on the i3 & i8 at NYIAS this year. The i3 is scheduled for a minor refresh in 2018, but BMW isn’t publicly commenting on that yet. It’s been widely speculated that in addition to the refresh, a new i3 Sport model will be offered, and many spy photographs of what appears to be this version have already been posted online. I wouldn’t expect BMW to comment on this until the formal introduction of the 2018 i3, which will likely happen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

BMW X5 xDrive40e: The strongest seller of the iPerformance brand in the US to date (InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

We then moved to the topic of BMW iPerformance vehicles, which have a prominent placement on this year’s show floor at NYIAS. BMW now offers four plug-in hybrid iPerformance vehicles, the X5-40e, 740e, 330e and the just-introduced 530e. Guerrero said they are selling very well, and the dealers are selling them as quickly as they come in. He added that the supply is going to increase as the year goes on, but has faith that the dealers will continue to sell them nearly as quickly as they get them because the demand is there.

I then mentioned that some EV enthusiasts are critical of PHEVs that have low all-electric ranges, like the iPerformance line offers, and asked for his thoughts on that.

“The market for iPerformance is still in the early stages, and the success we’re having is really taking place at the dealership level. With BMW i, we had to work harder to find the customers and cultivate sales for the i3.

With iPerformance vehicles, people are coming in off the street not even knowing about our plug-in offerings. Yet they are being converted because of the driving experience and the overall cost of ownership. There’s a job for BMW i electric vehicles, and there’s a job for BMW iPerformance plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Not everybody is ready today for a fully electric vehicle, even if his or her driving profile matches what the i3 offers. We understand that this switch to EVs won’t happen overnight. We need to get people used to plugging in their cars and experiencing the benefits of electric drive first.

That’s the job of iPerformance vehicles, it’s really converting a lot of people to the plug. That experience may lead them to purchase a longer range PHEV the next time around, or it may lead them to an all-electric car.

Not everybody is ready for an all-electric vehicle at this point. I am (Guerrero has been driving an i3 since 2014), I know you are (referring to me), but for many who aren’t, iPerformance vehicles are the sweet spot.“

The 2017 BMW i3 got an upgraded 33.4 kWh battery, good for 114 miles of range

I then asked him if BMW of North America is ever going to participate in the i3 Battery Retrofit Program that BMW AG announced last year.

The program is currently only available in a select few European countries, and BMW of North America hasn’t commented on whether they will ever offer a battery upgrade program. I think I was able to get (kind of) the first official confirmation that BMW of North America will offer a version of a battery upgrade/retrofit program at some point in the future, and that they are already testing internal fleets of retrofitted i3s.

“Absolutely. Even though we made the decision to not offer this option today, we’re still conducting our own internal study with a fleet of i3s that we’re retrofitting with battery upgrades to learn from and study for the US-specific group.

Even though we don’t have a consumer offering, internally we have fleets running around learning the benefits and challenges. So we’re not stopping, just because we didn’t initially offer it. As long as there is a viable consumer program that people would buy, of course we will offer it.

There’s also a sustainability side to this. There’s stationary energy storage, there’s the smart home and solar story that are tied to the ecosystem with home energy storage. We know even if there isn’t a car-to-car alone business case for upgrade, it works from the whole 360-degree sustainability model. We are looking at this holistically; we want to say to the customer: Here it is; solar, battery for energy storage, the Internet of Things, and your electric car. This is how it all works.”

BMW plug-ins (i8, 740e and X5 40e) in New York (InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

At this point my allotted interview time was coming to an end, so I asked Guerrero if there was anything he’d like to add to our discussion.

“First and foremost, I’d like to say we’re listening to our customers. We’re taking in all of the feedback we’re getting from our current plug-in customers and our dealers, and we’re learning from that. Things like the numeric state of charge gauge. Our customers asked for it and we added it. Lesson learned. ”

The next generation of electric vehicles we offer will benefit from all of the feedback we’re getting today. We’re going to continue to improve and innovate. But we realize the future is always changing, whether it be inductive charging, or high speed DC fast charging we will be there and continue to innovate. However, we will still rely on customer feedback, so we always want to keep that conversation alive.”

Our thanks to Jose Guerrero, BMW i’s North American Product & Operations Manager, for his time.

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48 Comments on "We Chat With BMW’s i Brand Boss – Jose Guerrero At The NY Auto Show"

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guyinacar

Thank you Mr. Guerrero.

Now you need to buttress the resale viability of your iPerformance PHEV fleet, which is quite easy for BMWNA to do.

You should offer a combined BMW OEM Extended Warranty (similar to a PZEV CARB sticker) along with a ~35 AER Samsung battery upgrade service for about $7500 here in the United States:

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=961158

You could do it via the existing CPO program, if you want.

Easy-peasy. And a new revenue source for the factory and your dealers alike. It’d also shrink the risk of depreciation, making your BMW leases more competitive.

georgeS

“Not everybody is ready today for a fully electric vehicle, even if his or her driving profile matches what the i3 offers. We understand that this switch to EVs won’t happen overnight.”

Oops. Still the rationalizing….. and no planned competitor to Tesla????

Hey Tom: Give up on BMW and just buy a Tesla. You have the money so there’s no excuse.

I do have a Model 3 reservation, George! But I’m not giving up on BMW, or the other OEMs, either. The Jaguar iPace for instance, is also on my short list for 2018.

I happen to agree with Guerrero in that the majority of people in the US aren’t ready for a full electric car, today. PHEVs are going to play a very important role in the transition to electrics. That said, I do wish BMW’s iPerformance vehicles had more AER. They will soon, but not soon enough, IMO.

GeorgeS

Cool tom,
You have the means to option one out and get an early delivery.

Tom Moloughney

It remains to be seen how the first batch of Model 3s will be optioned. I wouldn’t accept (and pay for) options that I don’t want just to get an early car. Also, since I’m on the East Coast, my slot may not come up for 6 months after launch, depending on how quickly the production ramp up is.

Then there’s the question of whether or not I want an early build. Tesla is obviously pushing hard to get the car into production, and if recent rumors are correct that they aren’t going to build a fleet of beta pre-production vehicles and go right to early release, then I probably may wait a while before I take delivery. Perhaps until the 2nd year of production and get one with the dual-motor configuration. We’ll see…

georgeS

I think I will wait as well Tom. I may just trade up to a 2014. First year for AP.

If they stick w/ their plan to deliver to employees 1st then it could be a while anyway. Article somewhere said employee orders could be 10,000.

Dan

I wonder how many of the trolls in these comment sections actually own a Tesla. The tell in GeorgeS’s comment is the last line about *being able to afford one*. Yes, we get it, Georgey. You ‘really’ want one but can’t have one. Life sucks, doesn’t it? So, you’re heckling the rest of us who do make reasonable trade offs to make electric cars work for us, whether they are smaller batteries, cheaper cars, or a combination of multiple fuel sources.

vdiv

Quite a few, Dan, quite a few. Most of them agree with GeorgeS sentiment, best way to get the legacy automakers to make serious EVs is to take your business elsewhere.

DonC

George is a nice guy and I very much doubt he intended his remarks to be interpreted in this way. FYI he bought a used one, which of course is much less expensive.

GeorgeS

Thx donc,
I truly loved my volt.
…and you know as much as I that i invested a lot of free time and money to the cause….so yes i can relate to Toms situation.

GeorgeS

Lol dan.
What are you driving. ??

GeorgeS

DAN,
Just re read ur comment. My apology…didn’t mean to belittle people for choosing another electric vehicle.

Dan

I personally drive an i3. I rarely need to charge the 22kw battery more than once or twice a week – so a 100kw car is of no use to me. Of two of my neighbors who were curious and inquired about it, one traded in a Camry for a (non plug in) Prius, and another traded in a Ford Explorer for a Ford Fusion that they diligently plug in every night. That’s where the word of mouth momentum is building.

This is where I have a problem with the people who act holier-than-thou. Ultimately, any new technology on the market is a sales opportunity, first and foremost. How a potential customer “feels” when they encounter the technology is more important than the specifics and the merits. I’ve met so many people who come away either saying that they got preached to by some radical political hack. That’s not the way to win hearts and minds.

Kim Jorgensen

More hot air from BMW, “we are listening to our customers” You could’ve fooled me. Notice how BMW always refer to the battery in 94ah to make it sound as big as a Tesla battery when in fact it is only 33 kWh. There won’t be anymore i models for ages but then if the best they can do is the i3 then good riddance.

MikeM

It’s always bugged me that BMW tries to muddy the waters with its borderline unethical ampere-hour references to battery size.

For the average car owner it’s near impossible to form a sensible idea of a vehicle’s battery capacity and comparative range using that as a basis. Heck, it’s tricky enough for an Electrical Engineer.

But you’re right. 94AH does sound like a big impressive number. I hadn’t thought of the Tesla fake-comparison though till you mentioned it.

During the interview Guerrero elaborated on what he meant by listening to thier customers, but it was too long to fully explain in an article like this. So let me explain a bit more of what he said.

When the i3 first launched it didn’t have a numeric state of charge display, instead it had a bar with 4 sections that gradually eroded as the charge depleted. The early owners spoke up and said they also wanted the SOC in a numeric values on display, so BMW added it about 8 months after the launch.

Owners also were reporting that they occasionally left the charge port open by mistake, so about a year later there was a software update that now alerts the driver that the flap is open.

Also, some owners with the range extender complained that they needed better warnings when the state of charge was getting dangerously low so now there are more visual warnings on the driver’s display.

All of these lessons learned will be carried over to all of thier future EVs. BMW, in fact has been listening and reacting to current owner’s suggestions, that was the point he was making. 🙂

Mikael

Sounds good. But during your next chat with BMW hot shots you should really ask or rather demand that they drop the “94 Ah” which is useless and replace it with proper kWh.

Tom Moloughney

Yeah, I agree it probably isn’t the best way to differentiate between the two battery pack offerings. But don’t think for a second that my demand would carry that much weight – if only! 😉

DonC

Obviously BMW has decided to phaseout/de-emphasize the “i” division and to electrify more of its standard models. Hard to really criticize. We live in a electric fan bubble. BMW lives in the real world and has to sell vehicles. No question BMW gave it a shot and wasn’t able to make a success of it. Deserves some kudos for the effort. Plus, at the end of the day, mild electrification in many cars is likely better than full electrification in a few.

guyinacar

DonC, you nailed it. But let’s add numbers. Electrification of 90% of all vehicles, for 80% of their miles driven is better than electrification of 4% of the vehicles for 100% of their miles driven. Oh, plus most vehicles (even non-pluggabe hybrids) will benefit from regen. So BMW has a credible, sober strategy here, even if some folks in this particular forum don’t prefer it.

vdiv

IF those 90% bother to even plug it in with the 14-mile AER and reduced performance (calling it iPerformance bugs me, a lot).

Hell, even some Volt drivers don’t bother to plug it in.
They don’t have to and could not be bothered.

I suppose there will be a small percentage that don’t bother to plug in offer or at all. However, they will be in the vast minority. We’ve learned from past PHEVs that the vast majority of owners do in fact plug in, and actually try to drive as much as possible on electricity.

BMW, is no doubt collecting this data from existing customers to monitor customer behavior with regards to plugging in.

vdiv

BMW can do a lot more than they currently are. The PHEV strategy is a delaying tactic at this point used by Ford, Toyota and soon Honda. EVs are ready and the charging infrastructure in many places is also ready.

guyinacar
“EVs are ready…”. No, they aren’t. They’re very close, yes, and they excel in several pockets of the market, like affluent suburban families with two children. I’ll say it again: My 40e can flatbed tow a Tesla Model X. A Tesla Model X cannot tow my BMW 40e. It’s not feature parity yet. Also, there’s the problem of mandatory booster seats which cannot go in the PAX seat in several jurisdictons. Hence SUVs, because third kid equals third row. “Charging infrastructure [is ready] in many places…” Well, except where it’s not ready at all, like the vast majority of NH & ME. CT is dodgy too, though CT is improving (e.g., on the Merritt Parkway). And then there’s most of the Midwest. Meanwhile, I have infinite range in my 40e, whether or not charging infrastructure is available and/or occupied. This from a car released back in MY’14. I think what scares the BEV diehards here is that Tesla really did awake the sleeping giants, and now they’ve summoned forces beyond their control. Honda and Exxon, for example. Hint: it’s actually cheaper to drive on gas this month than it is to drive on electricity. I still plug in several times… Read more »
vdiv

No, what scares me is that Tesla hasn’t, not sufficiently anyway. Tesla cannot do it on its own and the legacy automakers know that so they are pushing back, postponing, diverting, doing anything but making and selling compelling EVs.

DonC

The simpler explanation is that the major automakers can’t lose billions of dollars without their shareholders revolting. What’s the business case for shifting resources away from vehicles that make money to those that lose money?

It’s the curse or advantage of having a successful business.

vdiv

Funny that they did lose billions on diesel and hydrogen. However I object to the notion that investing in a better technology is losing money or somehow hurts the interests of the shareholders.

DonC

“Hell, even some Volt drivers don’t bother to plug it in.
They don’t have to and could not be bothered.”

Given the Volt has racked up more EV miles than any other vehicle on the road, seems like a silly position. http://insideevs.com/us-crosses-10-billion-e-miles-driven-facts-and-graphs/ Common sense should tell you that it’s unlikely someone would pay a big premium for an electric drive train and then not use it.

vdiv

I said some. Examples are people who bought PHEVs for HOV lane privileges, fleet drivers with free gas but having to pay for charging, people that consider charging in public to be bothersome, home charging slow or unavailable, etc. Yes, many if not most Volt drives plug in every chance they get, I was one of them for three and a half years. But with limited electric range on most PHEVs many will not plug in multiple times a day, would not go out of their way, as that would go against the reason why they bought a PHEV in the first place: no perceived compromise and inconvenience.

vdiv

Perhaps if BMW PHEVs (i3 REx excluded) had the range and performance of a Volt and the number of electric miles driven, then my take on BMW would be a bit nicer. But they don’t and they didn’t go bankrupt in 2009 having to scrape for every penny so there are no excuses. BMW self-admittedly has worked on EVs for over 40 years, over twice as long as Tesla, don’t tell me they can’t or shouldn’t do better.

guyinacar

Priceless.

I’m damn sure BMW 530e owners won’t aspire to have “the performance of a Volt.” LOL. If they do, they can just put another thousand pounds in the trunk, or perhaps tow a Leaf around town. Maybe you should test drive an iPerformance BMW, eh? See what all the fuss is about? Flick that BMW shifter to the left, and you’ll go into full-mountain-twisties-mode. Then you can get groceries in 100% electric mode later. Or any combination thereof. And you’ll have infinite range.

vdiv

Not on electric power they don’t.

Intrepid

You’re flat out wrong, especially because I virtually always drive in Max eDrive. The 330e is the essence of the original 325e that BMW made back in the day. The chassis is so well designed, it out handles the electric drivetrain and provides for a fun ride. The instant electric torque, of which there are many of, is enough to get the car moving quick off the line, I can even get wheel spin. I mean 0-30 is quick and is usually the speed I drive at in town. On the highway I’m going to be using the engine anyway and I’ve clocked 5.5 0-60 on the m-timer app, that’s not slow.

vdiv

I’m glad that you like your 330e, but you could look up the stats on the battery capacity, motor power, top EV speed, and max regen. power (harder to get) for the 330e and the Volt. Also look up the efficiency while at it.

Intrepid

I do enjoy it, and I have looked up volt specs, but you’d never catch me dead in one.. That car quite literally repels females and is in no way fun to drive, my BMW on the other hand is a different story. I think you need to go test a 330e for yourself before you comment on a car you clearly have never experienced and maybe you’ll understand there are benefits to phevs besides AER.

Intrepid
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love my 330e, even with just 5.7 kWh usable. My commute and errands are always done completely electrically. It is rare I use the gas engine, maybe once every other month, because I can charge at destinations like the beach, mall, work and my college campus, effectively doubling the range. The only time I’m required to use the engine is on my 450 mile trip to the parent’s and I really appreciate being able to do it on one 10 gallon tank, without stopping to charge. A bigger battery would be nice, but not at the expense of trunk space, the seats fold flat and you can barely tell the difference between the 330i and 330e interior volume. For me the 330e really is a no compromises car, because it has the driving dynamics I’d expect from a BMW and meets my daily needs with no local emissions. I’d say 75-80% of the 13,000 miles I’ve covered with the car have been completely electric as I am very diligent about charging and plan my routes to align with the charge schedule. BMW definitely got my foot in the door with… Read more »
georgeS

DonC,
“We live in a electric bubble.”

Please DonC.

When will you finally realize that Tesla is the only car company interested in making EV’s into a stand alone business.

You know as well as I that GM gives all the electric products a back seat. They are not that interested in selling electric cars because the big bad government is making them.

So I say just let them quit. Just give the business to Tesla since they are the only car company that want to make it happen.

Chris

I completely agree with him on the iPerformance line. Lots of petrol heads are getting converted and the pie gets bigger. You can also clearly see the evolution in it. From “we sell you more fun for a high extra cost” in their first offer to “get the 5 series flavor with the most fun for the cheapest price*”.
*your government covers the premium (or more)

Since he is asking for feedback: We want the i1, i2, i4, i5, i6 and i7, preferably this year!

Brian

I have not been giving BMW enough credit. They really get it. They understand their customers, and are making some great cars which match the current state of technology to the current state of mind of the consumers.

Thank you both Mr. Guerrero and Mr. Moloughney for this great interview. I hope to see more BMW i’s on the road soon.

Peder Norby

Well done interview Tom.
It’s both a blessing and curse when it comes to to electric cars for companies that have an existing base of 2 million car sales a year.
BMW’s blended strategy of BEV and PHEV with PHEV transitioning legacy customers is the way to go.

I’d feel differently if the car market was 50% EV and BMW was lagging, however at just over1% nationally all options EV & PHEV are good and the market experiance is roughly 50-50 between the two.

We have loved our i3 bevs the past three years and have rolled into new leases with the longer range 2017 year.

They’re amazing little cars!

Pat75014
I’ve been a BMW customer for 25 years, all new cars. Started with 3 Series 325D and so far ended with my current beloved but far too old 530DA, that just reached 320K KM and that I’m set to replace this year by a Tesla Model X 100D… as soon as Elon will explain how it could charge at least 3X faster on his next Gen Supercharger v3. I’m not considering BMW for that new car as I need a long range EV SUV and they are not yet serious on such EVs. I can’t believe BMW spent so much money and time on two sorts of dead ends, never making THE EV/PHEV needed to bring us into the future. On one side they focused on the iGadgets that no real long term BMW customer considers as a real BMW, capable to replace their all-purposes great BMW cars (i3 is 2nd car only, and a far too small formfactor). Then on the other end they did iPerformance PHEVs in the right formfactors but all built the wrong way, in the logic of the Porsche iHybrid “Electric Turbo” mode, with no valid all electric mode, due to far too small battery… Read more »
C Grier

Pat, I think you’ll like what’s coming from BMW over the next few years. They’ve laid the groundwork, and I expect they’ll continue to produce smartly engineered performance vehicles only with more and more electric capability.

BTW, if you understand the i3 is mostly designed as a 2nd car (not a primary family car) then why would you say it is too small? Have you tried it out with 4 adults on a short trip? It really works perfectly.

Ct200h

I traded my i3 at the end of lease and bought an X540e for the wife . It’s a great SUV but they could really pu a smaller fuel tank in it(22 gallons) and increase the pack capacity from 9 kWh to 14-16 kWh.
It would give you a lot longer EV range and the full federal tax credit.

Mike I.

I think one path that they should pursue for the i3 battery upgrade is for the new battery to go in the car and the old battery go to the same owner’s house for grid storage. BMW would have to source an inverter that can directly take the high voltage DC from the battery pack, but they have shown that already in Europe. If they can get the cost down to a competitive point, I think that will be a good way for customers to justify the upgrade.

That’s exactly what they’re doing, Mike. The product isn’t ready yet so BMW won’t really comment on it much, just yet.

vdiv

Not to leave the forum with the impression that I’m just a BMW hater, BMW deserves a lot of credit for electrifying all of their core models, the only legacy car company to do that so far.

Jim casebolt

The problem with the i3 is tire wear.it sucks to always buy tires.about 10000.thats it.brigdestone is cleaning it at the bank.

C Grier

Tom, the next time you get to interview and executive and the subject of using vehicle class Lithium cells for energy storage in a home – please ask them if they have a strategy to use those same batteries in-place for home backup power.

I’ve sat in the dark (during a blackout), in my home, with a fully charged EV in the garage wondering why there wasn’t an inverter connector option available to run my home off the car’s battery.

I like the idea of battery re-use in homes, but realistically I’ve already got the battery – it is just on wheels.