The BMW i3 is a truly unique electric car — or unique car of any kind, for that matter. The i3 is likely to be on the streets of Europe and the US for many years to come. But production of new i3 cars has come to an end.
I bought a used BMW i3 when returning to the US after living in Europe for 11 years, and my family and I thoroughly enjoyed it for 9 months before passing it on to my mom. It’s still one of my favorite cars, and if my wife and I bought a second car, it would very likely be an i3. (We currently just have a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range,) There are a few features of the i3 that we absolutely loved, and its low price on the used car market is extremely appealing. My mom has enjoyed that i3 for the past 3 years, and I’m sure there’s much more we could write about it — but we already have. Here’s a final review piece from me, and here’s one from my mom.
The story today is that this iconic electric vehicle is no longer being produced. BMW produced 250,000 units of the i3 during its 8 year product life span, but the era is now over and BMW’s got new electric cars to focus on. The EV market in 2022 is dramatically different from the EV market of 2013 or 2014, and BMW has simply decided that the i3 no longer has a home in this market.
Here are some of BMW’s own words on the momentous close of production:
“Leipzig. An era is coming to an end at the BMW Group plant in Leipzig. The serial production of the BMW i3 is now to come to an end, some eight and a half years after it was launched. A source of inspiration, a driver of innovation, a pioneer of locally emission-free driving pleasure: The list of attributes that have accompanied the BMW Group’s first large-series production automobile with fully electric drive since its debut in 2013 is long. The BMW i3 (combined power consumption: 16.3–15.3 kWh/100 km according to WLTP, 13.1–14.0 kWh/100 km according to NEDC, CO2 emissions: 0 g/ km) started out as an exotic specimen on the still barely tapped market for electric vehicles, developed into a classic with unmistakable charisma already in the course of its production period and goes down in the company’s history as a pioneer of sustainable mobility.
“For the BMW Group Plant Leipzig, the farewell to the BMW i3 is linked to the start of a new chapter in electric mobility. In a seamless transition, further e-drive components will be manufactured there with immediate effect in addition to producing high-voltage battery modules, which is already being done since May 2021. And already next year, the next generation of the MINI Countryman will be manufactured at the same location — with a fully electric drive, among other things. In this way, the electric mobility expertise of the workforce, which has been built up over the past years, will be used and advanced further. At the same time, the BMW Group Plant Leipzig becomes the first location in the company’s global production network where BMW and MINI models are manufactured together. […]
“The BMW i3 ends its production run with an impressive homerun. Just a few days ago, the 250,000th unit of the compact e-vehicle was produced in Leipzig. This makes the BMW i3 the world’s most successful electric vehicle in the premium compact segment. And contrary to what might be expected for a model that is being phased out, its popularity did not wane as it matured.
“The BMW i3 has been sold in more than 74 countries around the world. In many markets, it achieved a significantly higher market share in the electric vehicle segment than the BMW brand in the area of conventionally powered cars. It also succeeded in inspiring additional target groups in the premium mobility offers from BMW. In the early years, more than 80 per cent of all BMW i3 buyers were new customers for the BMW Group.”
There are a couple of interesting points toward the end there. First of all, has José Pontes made the same sort of comments several times in the i3’s sunset months — sales have been surprisingly high, sometimes even record breaking, as the model’s retirement party was being planned. Perhaps it was the i3’s unique style and cute appeal that inspired many buyers to come scoop one up once they found out i3 production was going to end.
Secondly, the comment that the i3 was sold in more than 74 countries around the world (does that mean 75 countries?) reminds one of how much different BMW’s approach was for several years. Whereas dozens of electric cars were sold in certain markets where automakers had to sell electric cars or pay big fines (such as California), the only electric models that were really sold in markets around the world were the BMW i3 and the Nissan LEAF. From South Africa to Poland to various other countries, you couldn’t get a Fiat 500e or Ford Focus Electric or Volkswagen e-up (and the list goes on and on), but you could buy a BMW i3 (or Nissan LEAF). I still find that a little intriguing. BMW perhaps saw their cool little electric car as a way to bring in more eyeballs, or perhaps saw it as an electric car with true mass-market potential, or perhaps just wanted to plant the seed that BMW was an electric car leader. One or more of those reasons, though, led BMW to be much broader in its EV sales than almost anyone else. You could even find the i3 in some markets where Tesla was absent!
BMW added, “The enduring appeal of the BMW i3, which is manufactured exclusively at the Leipzig site for the entire global market, is also due to its especially individualistic character. Its independent vehicle architecture consists of a drive module as an aluminium chassis, which carries the e-drive, the suspension and the high-voltage battery as well as a passenger cell made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) called the life module. This design, developed from the outset for pure e-mobility, made possible a particularly generous amount of space in the interior and a cockpit and centre console design which is both high-quality and very advanced. The same applies to the exterior design, which is still groundbreaking in its ninth year of production, and which is dedicated less to fashion or status than to technological avant-gardism.”
Much more information is available about the i3 and its end of production is available here.
Do you have any fun final thoughts on the little bugger?
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