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BMW i3 to Go Away: Why It’s Actually a Good Thing

Sad news, BMW i3 fans: it looks like there will be no successor to BMW’s first fully-electric car.  While the model will continue to be sold for at least a few more years, the end of the i3 is nigh. 

BMW i3 on Its Way Out

Why is BMW discontinuing the i3?  It certainly is not because of a lack of success.  The i3 was the number-one electric vehicle in Germany in August, and it has sold over 150,000 vehicles since its release six years ago.  The i3 is on its fifth iteration, in fact.  Sales during the first six months of 2019 were 21 percent higher than in 2018.  As Pieter Nota, BMW’s sales and marketing chief, said in an interview with the Financial Times, “The i3 is actually doing extremely well.”

The real reason lies in the fact that the BMW i3 is the black sheep of the family, a bit of an oddity compared to other vehicles belonging to the brand.  Its success clashes with the fact that it bears little resemblance to BMW’s sedans or sport utility vehicles and therefore appeals to a completely different demographic.  The i3 was intended to be a test of the public’s interest in electric cars without sullying its reputation when it came to its mainstream lineup, and it looks like it passed.

Unfortunately, it does not make a lot of sense for BMW to continue pouring money and resources into the further development of a vehicle that does not fit into their overall style. 

What This Means for the Future

The end of the BMW i3 is a signal that the legacy automaker is willing to continue down the electrification path, instead of viewing it as a pet project for special cars.  Taking the steps to electrify its mainstream models will allow it to continue to compete with other big names like Volkswagen, who are also making the switch, and therefore maintain the reputation of the brand that it has built over the years.  

It still sounds like BMW is dragging its feet a little, though.  Its official electrification strategy states that it is aiming to produce combustion engines, plug-in hybrids, and fully electric drive trains all at once, instead of focusing on one or two.  Such a strategy may work today, but it may not five years from now, especially with so many competing electric vehicles coming to the market between now and then.

If it does not want to truly invest itself in electrification and keep up with the times, maybe BMW will rethink its strategy in developing fuel-cell cars in order to get a jump-start on the future.  It did unveil its BMW i Hydrogen NEXT at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show, and that is a car that fits very well into the BMW brand.  The prototype could be the sort of thing to catapult the legacy automaker into a very new and potentially profitable market, at least if it learned anything from its experience with the i3.

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