As has been well publicized, BMW is stepping forward into the advanced electrified vehicle market, and recently it showed it has been looking as deeply as it can into where it’s going.
Speaking with WardsAuto at the i3 launch, BMW Global marketing head Peter Schwarzenbauer predicted the U.S. and China will be the largest markets for electric vehicle sales with Europe following.
“In the next few years, the U.S. will lead in EV sales, but in the long term I see the U.S. and China (vying) for EV leadership,” said Schwarzenbauer. “In China, it depends on how quick the government can provide an infrastructure for EVs.”
BMW is expecting initial consumer resistance after the eager early adopters snap up their first examples, and Schwarzenbauer conceded most consumers dislike taking chances on new technology.
That said BMW is expecting new i3 customers will be comprised of as much as 60 percent new faces to the BMW brand.
“We’re going to attempt to attract a new customer base for the i3,” Schwarzenbauer says further qualifying initial estimates. “The target group will be completely new, but it’s too early to tell how many there will be.”
The value proposition, he says, should allow most consumers to see a return on investment well within the early years of the car’s acquisition.
Consumers will pay extra up front for the car most closely compared to a 328i from among BMW’s gas-powered stable, “but they will break financially even after 30,000 miles (48,000 km),” he estimates.
Lumping the EV into the “premium car market,” this segment is expected to outpace the average market, growing 7-8 percent this year.
But the interim term this decade and beyond is projected to be relatively modest for EVs.
Citing Ludwig Willisch, president and CEO of BMW of North America, Wards noted BMW has alternately said EVs could remain a growing minority of the total car market for the next decade, saying by 2018 EV and hybrid deliveries will see 850,000 units per year.
More optimistically, BMW Chief Operating Officer Peter Miles says a long-slow growth curve will not be what happens, but sees a new paradigm taking off now.
“It’s the beginning of (EV) growth, not the end,” says Miles.
This hoped-for scenario is yet dependent upon much capital expenditures from all sectors.
To help stimulate EV sales, BMW plans to coax retailers into installing solar charging units – a move similar in intent to Tesla’s proliferation of Superchargers, and Nissan’s pushing for infrastructure as well.
The aim in BMW’s case is to increase revenue streams and build out a new model that works.
“Our aim is to produce a sustainable business from this,” says Miles.
While BMW says the i3 may be resisted by the mass market, it nonetheless has more customers lined up for it than it can presently foresee supplying.
Of these customers, more than half will go for the range extender option over the otherwise well-equipped $41,350 base MSRP.