BMW i3 Isn’t Just for BMW Fans, Premium Buyers, Says BMW Exec

With its long-standing reputation in the premium car market place and an ethos which focuses on driving pleasure and build quality ahead of price, you’d be forgiven for thinking that BMW’s new i sub-brand of electric vehicles are aimed at the same kind of people who buy one of its traditional premium sedans.

The BMW i3 is proving a real conquest car for BMW.

The BMW i3 is proving a real conquest car for BMW.

Not so, says BMW executive Ian Robertson, who says that the BMW i3 electric car and BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car have brought a wide and varied group of customers to the brand for the first time, including people who would have never before considered a BMW.

Talking with Automotive News, Robertson, who fronts BMW’s brand sales and marketing and group retail operations, said that an overwhelming majority of BMW i3 customers are new to the brand, with around 80 per cent of i3 customers buying a BMW for the first time. This mirrors the sales figures from rival automakers like Nissan and Chevrolet who report a similar conquest effect from electric vehicle sales.But perhaps more interesting is the fact that many i3 customers are first-time car buyers.

“The i3 sets out to appeal to new groups of customers who lead cosmopolitan, socially responsible and sustainable lifestyles,” Robertson said. “These buys place great importance on design quality, innovation and durability. Clearly we have a lot of new technology early adopters.”

With European i3 sales now totalling more than 3,000 cars since BMW officially launched the car last November, Robertson says i3 production at BMW’s Leipzig Germany is now around 100 cars a day.  While sales only recently started in the U.S., Robertson says the UK, Germany and Norway are on par with one another in terms of vehicles sold, although when the populations of each country are taken into consideration, Norway’s low population density and generous EV incentive program means it leads the rest of the world in per capita sales.

“Some are coming from premium brands, but a significant portion are coming from volume segments,” said Robertson. “Interestingly, some of them never owned a car before but decided to buy a zero-emission vehicle with the i3. So it’s clearly providing them with something they have never found in a car before.”

While some of BMW's customers for the i3 come from other premium brands, many come from 'volume' car brands. Many say the i3 is their first car.

While some of BMW’s customers for the i3 come from other premium brands, many come from ‘volume’ car brands. Many say the i3 is their first car.

The effect of all these new sales, says Robertson, is increased revenue for the BMW group, something he predicts will continue with the impending launch of the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.

“The i8 is already proving a success,” Robertson said. “Although deliveries are only just about to start, demand for the bMW i8 is already exceeding the planned production volume during ramp-up. But the make up of the order book is different, with lots of existing BMW customers looking to add an i8 to their garages.”

In other words, while the BMW i3 is a conquest car for BMW, bringing new customers to the brand for the first time, the BMW i8 is the car to convert its existing customer base to a plug-in vehicle for the first time.

Unlike the BMW i3 which brings new customers to the BMW family, the BMW i8 is proving popular with existing BMW customers.

Unlike the BMW i3 which brings new customers to the BMW family, the BMW i8 is proving popular with existing BMW customers.

“Some i8 early adopters are similar to Rolls-Royce customers, with multiple cars in multiple garages,” he said. “One has ordered three of them, one per continent.”

It seems then that BMW’s current offering of i3 and i8 are both bringing customers to the electric vehicle world, but via very different routes. One is introducing customers to the brand for the first time, while the other is converting hardened petrol heads to something more ecologically sound.

If you’re a BMW i3 or i8 customer, we’d love to hear from you about your decision to buy a BMW i electric car. What were your purchase considerations, and why did you make the choice over a rival electric car? And what car are you exchanging for your shiny plug-in Beemer?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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  • Surya

    I too would have never considered buying a BMW, but I did end up checking the i3 extensively. I liked the test drive quite a bit. But I couldn’t bring myself to pay the premium over comparable EVs with only faster acceleration as the biggest benefit.