At a list price of £99,115 ($157,767) in the UK, BMW’s second mass-produced plug-in car, the 2014 BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe costs more than a fully-loaded Tesla Model S luxury sedan. But while the BMW i8 luxury plug-in sports car has an all-electric range of just 23 miles per charge on the overly-optimistic NEDC test cycle, anyone wanting to buy one in the UK will find themselves waiting more than a year to get their car.
That’s according to UK motoring magazine AutoExpress, which says that demand for the high-end plug-in is so high that it now has a twelve-month waiting list.
So far, an estimated 200 BMW i8 cars have been delivered to British customers, but BMW says its order books now total more than 400 cars, more than one year of BMW’s original British production allocation.
In other words, BMW has already sold every single car it intended to produce in one year in a few months, smashing its own production expectations with i8 demand just as it did with the BMW i3 plug-in city car earlier this year.
On paper, BMW exceeding its own expectations with BMW i8 and BMW i3 orders is impressive, and illustrates that demand for its plug-in cars is high. It also demonstrates that BMW learned from mistakes made by both General Motors and Nissan, who found themselves making grandiose claims ahead of launch about plug-in vehicle sales expectations that neither company was able to achieve. In short, it’s better to underestimate and overachieve than it is to metaphorically shoot for the moon and struggle to get out of orbit.
To put BMW’s i8 allocation, sales volumes and reservations for the UK into perspective however, it’s worth noting that according to the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a total of 8,346 cars were registered during 2013 in the Luxury Vehicle segment, while 47,544 cars were registered in the Specialist Sports segment. In Q3 this year, there were some 10,531 Specialist Sports cars registered, accounting for just 1.6 per cent of the UK automotive market. Compared to the total number of cars sold in either the Luxury or Specialist Sports car segment, the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid’s delivery total of just 200 cars to date isn’t all that large
And we’re not expecting it to be: the BMW i8, like so many other luxury sports cars, isn’t a mainstream model by any stretch of the imagination. In order to classify as such, we’d suggest it would need to sell upwards of several thousand cars for the Specialist Sports segment, or upwards of 1,000 cars in the Luxury car segment. (During 2013, for example, the BMW luxury 7-series sedan accounted for just 1,045 new car registrations, equivalent to 12.5 per cent of the Luxury car segment total.)
The only other measuring stick we can think of applying to this particular conundrum is the number of luxury Model S sedans sold in the UK by Tesla since the Model S was launched here this summer.Sadly, while Tesla doesn’t give figures out, a total of 1,115 “Other Imports” were recorded by the SMMT in the year to date to September 2014, up from 724 “Other Imports” for the year to date September 2013. Since the “Other Imports” category includes the Tesla Model S — and we’re not sure of any other major car entering the market in this category — we’re assuming a total of around 350-370 Tesla Model S Sedans have now been delivered in the UK.
As a side, we should also point out that the Tesla Model S and the BMW i8 do not cross-shop, and do not come in the same segment. But pound for pound, they’re the only plug-in cars we can compare to one another.
What does this tell us?
The BMW i8 is certainly proving popular among car buyers in the UK, and is already dramatically exceeding BMW’s initial sales predictions for the yearly market. But taken in context, it appears he BMW i8 simply has a year-long waiting list because so few cars were initially reserved for UK buyers.
After all, we can’t think of that many cars where a waiting list of 400 units equates to a year-long wait.
Let’s hope BMW decides to make more, because in a year’s time, we predict the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid might not look quite as futuristic as it does right now, especially with competition on the way from Audi’s R8 e-Tron among others.
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