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Op-ed: BMW XDrive Event In Brisbane, Do Legacy Brands Take EVs Seriously?

A lament from a friend of mine who attended the launch of BMW’s iX electric vehicle range in Brisbane.

Recently, my wife and I attended the Brisbane launch of the BMW XDrive iX EV range. The cars sell for between $115,000 and $140,000 depending on range and accoutrements. Around 130 people attended, and the “reveal” was oversubscribed in the first hour invitations went out. This was such that attendance had to be limited and some invitations declined. My wife and I have been loyal BMW owners for over 20 years and have had several mid-price models in that period. Two years ago when we wanted to go “EV,” we tried BMW, but to no avail — nothing even remotely suitable was available.

We went for a Tesla Model 3 and have not regretted it for one moment. Not much has changed.

I noted from the launch that:

  1. BMW seems to have no understanding of just how far behind it is, time-wise and design-wise and performance-wise, in the EV world — this was a surprise.
  2. BMW referenced no other brand of EV, the EV global trend, or price point matches. They seemed to be in their own “BMW XDrive” world, which is now at least 5 years in the past with respect to EVs. The presentation did not acknowledge the lateness of BMW to the EV party or apologize to us, its loyal customers, for that.
  3. BMW did not provide a front boot — it was all busyness under the bonnet.
  4. This is a second generation EV. The third generation may be worth looking at, I reckon (in car design terms, a generation is about 5 years).
  5. Few specs were given (e.g., price, warranty, etc.). There was no Q&A to bring forward questions about over-the-air updates(?), self-driving(?), towing capacity, etc.
  6. No brochure with a QR code and business card stapled to it was available.

I found the BMW XDrive launch event quite perplexing. Maybe some of the reasons behind my confusion and something that would also go a long way to explaining my disappointment can be seen in this article, where BMW’s CEO warns against the premature phaseout of combustion engines: “I don’t think that would help the climate or anyone else.”

Value for Money

I exhaustively explored the BMW i3 two years ago. Frustratingly, it had 20% less seating, 20% bigger battery, 20% less range, no OTA updates, and the same price as the Tesla Model 3! It had 40% less performance at the same price, all with a shorter warranty. I brought all of these things up by phone with BMW’s reps at the time, and they seemed to agree with me. Now, BMW has simply dropped the i3.

We went elsewhere and bought a Tesla Model 3 Long Range in late 2020. Now, at last, BMW actually does have what I see as its first EV model and further EV range.

The iX range is based on a large hatch, is long awaited, and is of particular interest to us, given the Tesla Model Y seems forever delayed like the Cybertruck. Additionally, there’s the i4 eDrive40 sedan that comes in at $140,000 (On The Road price) with a range of 425 km in “ideal conditions” (which is WLTP standard, which means the actual range is in the mid 300’s). It is well suited for our needs. For comparison, our Tesla Model 3 Long Range has a range of 635 km, mid 500’s in the real world, approximately 40% more than the BMW for about 40% less cost to buy.

Where the BMW XDrive Stands in The EV Sector

It concerns me that BMW still hasn’t demonstrated that it is fully behind the EV range as if its future depends on it — which, it actually does. For some legacy gas car manufacturers, EVs can be seen as a fad that can sit alongside hybrids and traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. As a legacy ICE manufacturer, BMW seems to be locked into the betwixt and between worldview, whereas new EV startups like Rivian, Lucid Air, Tesla, Nio, etc. have to make it work — they have no backup option, no Plan B. They can’t just fudge the EV effort, as EVs are their ONLY chance at success. And an utterly crucial way of taking EVs seriously is to respect the now extremely well informed customers and potential customers, not to deliver lacklustre products with the fanfare of the revolution that they are late to. Tesla now has over a decade of experience in designing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing EVs. The company sold nearly 1 million EVs during 2021. It didn’t get there by selling lackluster products.

However, in some ways, pundits can claim that legacy ICE manufacturers were dabbling with EVs when Elon Musk was in nappies, and they are right. In the late 1890s, there were more EVs than ICE or steam cars. So, that claim is a little risqué but true. However, we know what happened then and what kept happening every decade or two since. Check out the 2006 documentary Who killed the electric car? What can happen with EVs from legacy brands is they can just be dropped in an instant like the GM EV1, Chevy Spark EV, and BMW i3. This demonstrates my point that some legacy ICE manufacturers, like BMW and Toyota, simply don’t take the EV phenomenon seriously. Those legacy companies doing the best job at taking the EV challenge seriously are, in my opinion, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, and MG. Some of these manufacturers are on their third iteration, and the change from each generation is visible and ginormous.

Come on, BMW, don’t you think it’s time to lift your game?

 

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

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