The new BMW i8 has been positioned as a Tesla killer. While the claim is bolstered by the power of the BMW brand, its dealer network and massive marketing budget, the model may fail. The car is not a Tesla, and it sells for more than $135,000.
BMW’s first hurdle is the image Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) has built. It has one of the best-reviewed cars in history. It has a flawless safety record, despite rumors a year ago that its battery could catch on fire in a collision. Elon Musk, its founder, has become a high-tech legend. His “brand” has helped give Tesla a “glow.”
High-price luxury cars have not caught on. The best case in point is General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Cadillac ELR. It is GM’s high-end attempt to go green. However, most car experts see it as nothing more than a Chevy Volt with expensive trim. The ELR’s base price is $71,000 (not much different from a Tesla). And it is not a true electric car. As part of its power train, it has a gas-powered engine.
The BMW i8 may end up competing with the new Tesla Model S run by two motors. Its acceleration will take it from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. It will run with Tesla’s new autopilot technology, and it will retail for over $120,000.
BMW’s i8 has an immediate drawback. It is not all-electric as the Tesla is. That means it cannot claim its technology is a leap forward. The company describes the car this way:
The BMW i8 is no ordinary sports car. It’s an icon of progress — an extraordinary evolution of The Ultimate Driving Machine. As a all-wheel drive plug — in hybrid sports car, this revolutionary vehicle combines the power of a 3-cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine and the efficiency of an all-electric motor for an exhilarating 357-hp and 420 lb-ft of torque driving experience that’s every bit BMW.
Under the hood, the BMW i8 is not a Tesla. Its technology is too old.
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