BMW will end i3 production in July as buyers shun once ground-breaking EV

Europe

BERLIN — BMW will end production of its i3 full-electric car in July as buyers shun the once ground-breaking model even though battery-powered cars are becoming more popular.

Originally, the compact hatchback was due to be produced at the plant in Leipzig, Germany, until 2024 due to the high demand for EVs. However, last summer the decision was made to bring the end of production forward to 2022.

BMW has built about 250,000 i3s in the state of Saxony since 2013.

Ssales of the hatchback in Europe rose by 4.5 percent to 24,259, according to JATO Dynamics market researcher, but the i3’s volume is well below other battery-electric cars. By comparison, Volkswagen sold 71,252 units of the ID3 compact electric hatchback, while sales of the Tesla Model 3, a larger, midsize sedan, jumped 63 percent to 140,421, making it Europe’s top-selling full-electric car.

BMW confirmed the July production stop to Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche.

When it entered the market, the i3 was considered revolutionary and a groundbreaker in electromobility, even though initial sales were poor.

One of the reasons BMW gave for the decision to halt production was that potential buyers of compact EVs are interested in models with more space.

In addition, an electric car should not stand out too much visually from “normal” combustion-engine cars, a company spokesperson told Automobilwoche. Quite a few employees at BMW believed that the i3 was too polarizing due to its unusual shape and thus scared off many customers.

The company hopes that in future, customers will look to the new Mini Electric, the full-electric Mini Countryman and the future iX1 to satisfy their needs in the compact segment.

“These models have the potential to generate significantly larger unit sales than the i3 managed in its prime,” a company spokesperson said.

Money loser?

Whether BMW ever made money on the i3 remains a company secret. Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management (CAM) in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, estimated the development costs of “Project i” at well over two billion euros.

“The carbon investment alone is close to 700 million euros,” Bratzel said. Added to this was the extremely expensive and complex production of the ultra-light material for the frame structure of the i3.

Peter Fintl, an expert at technology consulting firm Capgemini Engineering, told Automobilwoche that he thought the i program was ten years ahead of its time.

“At the time, BMW was the first player to think holistically about sustainability and to research innovative technologies and bring them into series production,” he said. “Components from the i3, as well as the know-how, have helped electrify other models in the group.”

Lost production in Leipzig will be filled by the next generation of the 2 Series Active Tourer, which go into production this year. Starting 2023, the new Mini Countryman will be built in Leipzig as a plug-in-hybrid and full-electric model.

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