BMW eases path to EV ownership to gain 'meaningful' sales

Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:51pm EDT
 
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By Andreas Cremer and Deepa Seetharaman

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - BMW aims to win a "meaningful" segment of the electric car market with its i-series battery-powered models by offering luxurious styling and packages designed to help owners overcome the traditional hurdles to electric car ownership.

Among the incentives offered by the world's biggest luxury carmaker is what it calls "BMW add-on mobility", which gives owners access to a pool of traditional gas-powered BMW vehicles to use on longer journeys when an electric car might not be practical.

The option aims to allay a common concern among potential buyers of electric cars -- so-called range anxiety, or the fear of being stranded when the battery runs out of electricity. This is part of BMW's broader push to broaden the appeal of its i3 electric car, which was unveiled by executives in three cities worldwide on Monday.

The company said the projected range for its i3 standard model would be about 80-100 miles on a single charge.

"We're not entering to be a niche player," BMW sales chief Ian Robertson told reporters at the i3's launch event in London, staged to coincide with others in New York and Beijing.

"We're targeting meaningful sales," he said, in an electric-car market that BMW expects will grow to between 150,000 and 160,000 vehicles globally this year, from 7,000 in 2010.

BMW has declined to give sales or production goals for the four-seater i3, to be followed early next year by a battery-powered i8 sports car. During an interview with Reuters TV, BMW Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer said he expects the vehicle to make a "positive contribution" to earnings immediately.

Limited driving ranges, high prices and relatively Spartan interiors have hobbled demand for electric vehicles made the other car makers with including Nissan Motor Co Ltd, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.. Edmunds.com predicts electric cars will account for 0.1 percent of the U.S. market this year, 1.1 percent in 2017 and 2.3 percent by 2020.   Continued...

 
The new BMW i3 electric car is unveiled in front of a projected image of Tower Bridge at a ceremony in London, July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning