BMW has a brand new electric SUV in its lineup — the iX3, which is a battery electric version of its hot selling X3. The new car market is crazy for SUVs and compact models like the X3 are in high demand. But according to a report by Automotive News, the company has decided it will not bring the iX3 to America anytime soon.
A BMW spokesperson told Automotive News, “At this time we do not have plans to bring the iX3 to the U.S. market.” There were no details to flesh out that rather terse statement, so we are left to speculate why BMW would develop an electric SUV and then keep it out of one of its biggest markets. Here are a couple of (hopefully) educated guesses.
One, all automakers must now confront the reality of the new EU exhaust emissions rules, which require companies to sell a significant number of electric cars in order to avoid painfully high fines. Therefore, BMW is reserving as many iX3s for the European market as possible. Mercedes appears to be doing the same thing with its EQC although the company won’t say so publicly.
Two, the iX3 won’t have enough range to appeal to American buyers. With only a 74 kWh battery, its EPA range is likely to be around 220 miles — if that. The Jaguar I-Pace with a 90 kWh battery is rated at 234 miles. The Audi e-tron has a 95 kWh battery and an EPA range of 204 miles. Unless a vehicle has a range of at least 300 miles, “it’s not worth bringing to the table,” said one BMW retailer who asked not to be identified. Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research is a little more hopeful. “To be competitive, you really want to have closer to at least 240 to 250 miles of EPA range. Anything less than that and I think you’re going to be struggling in the marketplace.”
Three, the iX3 doesn’t really cut it as an SUV. The car is only offered with a single motor driving the rear wheels. Most Americans looking for an SUV expect all wheel drive capability (although the Hyundai Kona does not.) “Why push a vehicle with limited appeal into North America only to come up short next to a Tesla Model Y or Ford Mustang Mach-E?” asks Sam Fiorani, vice president of AutoForecast Solutions.
The current X3 tries to be all things to all people. It can be had with either a gasoline or diesel engine in various markets or as a plug-in hybrid. In general, a car that is not designed from the ground up to be electric suffers because of the compromises required to adapt the chassis to a variety of powertrains. Fiorani thinks BMW may have a better electric X3 variant to offer when the next generation car arrives. “With better batteries and all wheel drive, the next generation would make a proper entry into this very competitive segment,” he says.
Four, better EVs are coming from BMW. The iNext crossover goes into production in the middle of 2021, followed by the i4 sedan toward the end of 2021. The i4 and iNext have a range of more than 370 miles, compared with the 273 mile range of the iX3 based on the WLTP emissions test cycle. “With the two longer-range models coming, we don’t need the limited range, rear-wheel drive iX3 right now,” another BMW dealer said.
Five, America is still not ready for electric cars. Despite everything Tesla has done and a massive increase in public charging stations thanks to Charge Point, EVGo, and Electrify America, plus years of experience with the Nissan LEAF and other electric cars, Americans still have yet to warm to the idea of driving an electric car. The old nostrum that you could tell you boss to take this job and shove it, hop into your pickemup, and light out for the Golden West, only stopping for gas only 6 hours or so, is part of the American psyche. For many, the idea of stopping for an hour or so to recharge is simply a bridge too far.
Whatever the reason, the BMW iX3 won’t be coming to America any time soon, but the Tesla Model Y will be. By the time BMW figures out how to build and market compelling electric cars, it may be much too late for the boys from Bavaria.