Despite a massive and expensive advertising campaign, not to mention the reported $2 billion cost of developing it, BMW’s new little i3 electric car is not exactly storming up the sales charts.
Experts say this is because BMW is nervous about the new technology involved in the i3, and is deliberately keeping production slow until it is confident it won’t be embarrassed by a recall induced by any failures.
News the i3 flunked a European safety test can’t have helped either. In a test in November the i3 performed poorly in pedestrian protection, and safety assistance systems, scoring four out of a possible five stars overall. Even cheap new models in Europe now regularly score five out of five in the EuroNCAP tests.
Because BMW is still concerned about getting this groundbreaking vehicle right – it is built from carbon fiber as well as being battery powered – production at the Leipzig factory and therefore sales have only amounted to a trickle so far.
According to British newsletter Automotive Industry Data (AID), just over 400 new BMW i3s were sold in all of Western Europe in November.
“That’s a mere fraction of the earlier consensus expectations of some dedicated electric car market observers,” said AID editor Peter Schmidt.
Schmidt said total registrations by the end of November had reached 801 i3s, but this was mainly accounted for by press fleet vehicles and dealer demonstrators. Schmidt said only 121 i3s were sold in Germany in November after sales started on the 16th.
BMW has said that it has 10,000 orders for the i3, but hasn’t said whether this is from genuine customers or dealers. BMW said full production capacity will be reached in March, but didn’t say what that was. Sales in the U.S. start in the second quarter of 2014.