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How can BMW improve i3 sales with its dealers and its perception?

When a multinational car company like BMW spends three to four years and three cars to perfect its electric car offering, why are sales so pathetic?


What is happening to the long awaited BMW i3? BMW has put a great deal of planning into this car and has prepared for consumers range anxiety issues by providing a range extender. Its most recent EV program began with the E Mini and then the ActiveE and now we have the i3 and i8 in the BMW Fleet.

The situation for the USA BMW EV team is the seesaw sales rates that we have seen this year. January thru May had the following BMW I3 sales, 670, 1089, 922, 406, 818 according to This is clearly not an uptrend. Its bestselling month was back in October of 2014 which hit the 1159 mark. During this same time, the Nissan Leaf and Tesla S has clearly out sold BMW and has consistently had sales over 1000 units each month. This is all while sales in April for BMW only came in at 406 units.

Clearly, there is a mixed reaction to the i3. While I alluded to the engineering of the car to help overcome the range anxiety challenge, there is, of course, a potential issue with the styling of the car. Has the rear doors that open reversed from traditional rear doors hurt sales? Has the new styling that has completely left the traditional BMW lines become an issue for buyers? Is the overall range too low? The sales numbers almost indicate a mixed reaction to the car itself. While sitting in the car, my head hit the roof and I’m 5’ 11” tall so that might be a drawback as well.

The Plus Side of BMW i3
On the plus side the car BMW i3 has the REX (range extender) which sells as an optional add on, thus making the I3 available as a Hybrid. While EV purists will hate this, there is a practical reason for EVs to love this version of the i3. Let me explain my thoughts: While the Chevy Volt team looked at the average miles travelled and stuck with that as their EV range and then added on the range extender, BMW packed in as much EV range as possible and then added in the Range Extender. In effect, offering Evers a Hybrid with the most EV range. This is truly a benefit as it helps the car stay in EV mode much longer than any other hybrid.

Dealership Issue?
One other potential issue could be lack of dealer support however I personally know dealers that have gone above and beyond to help people see the light of Electrification!

It will be interesting to see whether or not, BMW sales will continue the up and down rate of the last few months or break upward and start moving up in the sales rank! Time will tell.


mike w (not verified)    June 6, 2015 - 3:17PM

The BMW INHO has a few things going against it. First is the look of the car. I would be nice and say "Distinctive". It doesn't bother me but....The $50K price tag is not helping to bring in price conscious buyers. Communications is another big problem. Go to the Tesla, Volt or Leaf web sites and they have interactive sites that show you each option and how they affect the sale or lease price. AFAIK BMW doesn't do that. Go to the BMW site and the lease price of every car they sell is listed but not the i3. What gives with these guys?
Those back door got to go. Ever try to pull a baby out of a car seat with those kinds of door?

Jerry (not verified)    June 9, 2015 - 2:07PM

BMW has sold about 20,000 i3s worldwide since its launch in late 2013, which equates to well more than 1,000 per month. Sales are exceeding BMW's expectations (noted by quite a few articled and comments by BMW execs). The low sales in April were because BMW stopped shipping 2014 i3s and were just beginning to ship 2015s and wanted to clear the 2104 inventory first - this frequently happens when model years transition. Sorry, but this is a very poorly written article with no substance, just opinion, and the title has no relation to the body. What's the problem with the dealers? You say you "Personally know dealers that have gone above and beyond to help people see the light of Electrification!" So what more do you want? Plus you never discuss the "Perception" problem you claim is holding back sales.

Ian (not verified)    July 24, 2015 - 4:50AM

BMW i is switching to a direct sales model, starting with Japan... and this is the only way the car can succeed. Because DEALERS simply hate it... no maintenance needed besides very routine stuff, which means no need for a service department.

Add to that the i3 is engineered to last 40 years and planned obsolescence is out the door. Electric cars are disruptive by their very nature and some people just hate that kind of change.

Kudos to BMW for having the largest proportion of BEV sold as a percentage of its production... close to 8% now.

Toyota is something like 0.3%, even with the Leaf topping up the charts.