The BMW i8, competitor to the Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) Model S, sold only 199 units in October. Sales for the first 10 months were 1,288, down 13.6% year over year. The German car company needs to come up with a cure quickly, or the i8 will be deemed a failure.
The i8 has a base price of $140,700. It is extremely fast, with a 0 to 60 speed of 4.2 seconds. With added options, the price can go well above $150,000. The i8 is not even a real electric car. It has an eDrive 129-hp and 184 lb-ft of torque electric motor coupled with a TwinPower Turbo 3-cylinder 228-hp and 236 lb-ft of torque engine with high-precision direct injection. In the electric car business, a fuel injected gas engine does not count.
The i8 really only competes with the highest end Tesla vehicle, called the Model S P100D. That car has a cash price of $134,500. It is among the fastest production cars in the world, with a 0 to 60 time of 2.5 seconds and every luxury and performance upgrade Tesla offers. This is part of BMW’s problem. It has no model to compete with the balance of the popular Model S line, which has a price as low as $68,500.
BMW has compounded its model range problem with the fact that it builds only one other electric car, the inexpensive i3, which competes with the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. Sales of the i3 have collapsed this year, off 30.1% to 6,205. The Bolt has been released with strong reviews from car experts, and the Chevy marketing efforts and huge dealer network should help its sales.
As BMW looks back on its first electric car launches, it will discover that a car at the very top of the market, and one at the very bottom with nothing in the middle was a poor strategy. So was that little gas engine.