Speaking to CarAdvice at the international launch of the BMW X6 M, Carsten Pries, head of product management of BMW M division, said there are still unanswered questions about the commercial viability of electric cars and whether BMW needs more electrified models than its current i3 and i8.
“The question is how many of these [electric] cars do you need in the BMW model portfolio?” Pries said.
“The i8 did a fantastic job to send a message to the outside world of this how we look at sports cars in the future, including how we look at the combination of electric drive and combustion engine and now that the BMW i8 has introduced it, obviously if we look at it from an overall grand or corporate perspective, the question is how many more in this category do you need, I think for the time being we are doing very well with this exceptional car”
The current structure of BMW has the M division on one side, the core BMW models in the middle and the currently dual line-up of i cars (i8 and i3) on the other side, giving BMW the opportunity to make a play for performance, everyday luxury and electrified cars within the one brand.
“At BMW M [Division] we have to ask ourselves the question of when is it not just a certain trend. Since electric cars are still selling in very small numbers, but when is it going to be what you have to have or where the majority of customers are looking for?”
“This is the most difficult questions to answer, of when it will be more than just a trend to standout from the crowd, something that is really relevant for the majority of the people in the market. That, from or expectation, is still a few years down the road.”
Pries says the current flock of electrified supercars, such as the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder are all exciting showcases but are extremely cost prohibitive to most buyers, which would not make sense for BMW M for the time being, as it has to have a “clear focus with products in our lineup that have the highest relevance”.
When the time is right for BMW’s M division to electrify its cars, Pries believes that it will not do so at the expense of the current i-badged cars.
“Would it make sense to build an M version of an ‘i’ car? The design approach my BMW i colleagues are taking, I personally think it would dilute the profile of i models if you started to mix it with M.”
This might leave the M division open to creating its own unique electric performance car, though it’s also possible that the rest of the BMW’s core lineup may adopt some of the i division's electrification technology for M division to build upon.
“Would we like to do something else stand alone? You can wake up every one of the 550 employees [of M division] and they will tell you ‘yes’… Whether it’s commercially viable or sensible, that’s a different question”
The BMW i8 went on sale in Australia late last year with a starting price of $299,900.