Someone at BMW is either very, very clever, or very, very stupid.
How else could you explain the company’s new i3 electric car – with its futuristic styling and carbon fibre chassis – hitting the market for only 25,680?
Okay, so that price is after the government’s 5,000 grant for electric cars, a subject of much political and ideological strife. But so is the 25,490 Nissan will charge you for its top-end Leaf in Tekna specification, if you buy it with the batteries included. It’s also over 4,000 cheaper than the 29,995 Vauxhall will bill you for an Ampera, after the same government grant.
That, as you might have guessed, is the clever bit. With BMW’s badge kudos, high-technology approach and rapid performance (0-62 mph is dealt with in around seven seconds), the i3’s placement with mainstream electric vehicles seems like quite a coup.
The very stupid part is whether it’s possible for BMW to make any money whatsoever from such a cutting-edge vehicle. It’s hard to believe it will, but even the stupid part may start to look smart if it draws thousands of extra buyers to the brand.
Loss-leading products aren’t common in the motor industry, but if BMW plays its cards right then it could have a whole new wave of devoted followers by the time the costs come down and the i3 is one or two generations on. And the company, which already makes its profits from selling hundreds of thousands of 3-Series every year (over 400,000 in 2012), can afford to take that gamble and play the long game.
But what about the customer? What do you get?
In effect, a rear-engined, rear-drive Fiesta-sized car with an 80-100 mile range. A range-extended model, using a 650cc twin-cylinder engine boosting range up to 180 miles, should follow shortly.
The i3 will come as standard with an AC 7.4 kW fast charger for an 80 percent boost in just 3 hours, or up to 10 hours from a regular household socket.
Buyers will also have the option of a 2,995 down, 36 month at 369 per month finance deal, capped at 24,000 miles.
Priced from: 25,680 (including 5,000 government grant)
Available from: November
What we don’t know is exactly what the i3 will look like in production guise, as the official launch is a week today (29th July). The car you see in our pictures is last year’s i3 Concept Coupe, but all signs point to the five-door production model, with its rear-hinged rear doors, looking very similar. The interior too is supposed to be something of a work of art – completely different from any other production car.
But for that price and a car with that badge, those in the market for an electric vehicle would be foolish not to give the i3 a look – it’s competitive enough to put its closest rivals at risk of looking obsolete.