The first words of caution are emerging from Munich.
After the launch of the i3 and the introduction of the i8, BMW production chief Harald Krueger told Automotive News that the company needs time to assess demand for before it green-lights further electric or plug-in hybrid models under its i range. The sub-brand will remain with only the two models until BMW can determine if there’s enough demand for any more.
BMW has said that the i3 is selling well and the i8 is “sold out” for 2014, without disclosing actual production figures or sales targets. Analysts IHS Automotive recently predicted global sales for the i8 of 1932 units in 2014 and 5085 units in 2015, while it’s predicted that 21,416 i3s will be sold in 2014 and 22,480 units in 2015. After this peak in 2015, IHS expects sales of both models to dwindle.
Krueger told Automotive News that the i3 won’t be offered in China, the world’s largest automotive market.
Estimates regarding just how much BMW spent in R&D, tooling, and marketing for the i3 and i8 vary wildly, but it’s believed the automaker has sunk between $2 billion and $5 billion into the project. BMW will only say that the costs have been “written off,” allowing the brand to “make money from the first one sold.”
Krueger’s comments mark a departure from the extremely bullish tone that the company had previously adopted. Rumors of a mid-size, family-hauling i5 have gone quiet in the past few months, meanwhile model designations up to i9 reportedly have been trademarked. It’s possible they may go unused.