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by Tim Beissmann

The man overseeing the BMW i8 project says he expects to sell more of the new plug-in hybrid sports cars in the US than in any other market.

BMW i8 product manager Hendrik Wenders told Automobilewoche the US will be “by far the largest sales market for the i8”, while the UK, Germany and France are set to lead the way in Europe. Perhaps surprisingly, BMW does not expect the world’s biggest market, China, to be among the leaders for i8.

Wenders says BMW is targeting high-income, tech-savvy men aged 35 and above with the i8, which will make its debut in production form at next month’s Frankfurt motor show.

BMW plans to launch the i8 during the second quarter of next year, when it will roll the car out simultaneously in showrooms around the world.

Wenders says the high-performance plug-in will be sold in roughly 50 countries. BMW Australia will introduce the i8 during the second half of 2014, a few months after the mid-year launch of the i3 city car.

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A range of purchasing options will be available to customers overseas, with the i8 to be sold online, through travelling salespeople that drive to customers’ houses, and through a call centre.

The BMW i8 teams a turbocharged 170kW/320Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with a 96kW/250Nm electric motor for a combined system output of 266kW of power and 570Nm of torque.

Power is sent to all four wheels in hybrid mode, which facilitates an electronically limited 250km/h top speed, claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of 2.5 litres per 100km or better, and a driving range in excess of 500km.

BMW says the i8 will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds or less, undercutting the current-generation V8-powered BMW M3 coupe by at least one-tenth.

The Frankfurt motor show kicks off on September 10.




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