i car changes no sweat for BMW NZ

Kiwi interest in an open version of BMW’s most spectacular electric achievement is ramping up – but is the maker itself still so keen on the i8 or its little bro?

TALK that BMW is thinking about culling the current i3 and the i8 and plugging into other kinds of electric vehicles has not rattled the brand’s New Zealand operation.

The Auckland-domiciled distributor was asked to comment about an overseas’ report that quotes the head of BMW’s electric division as saying his brand is not set on its current green strategy, and may eventually cull the current electric fare from production.

Speaking with British publication Autocar, Robert Irlinger, said there wouldn’t necessarily be a direct replacement for either car as BMW tackles tightening global emission standards.

Irlinger is reported by the British weekly as saying the i8, whose latest version – a roadster set to come on sale here mid-year – took the spotlight at the current Detroit motor show, is under review.

 “We're still deciding [about] the i8,” Irlinger is reported as saying.

“We see a market for new kinds of sports cars. Whatever it’s called, or if it’s a new kind of sports car, is still in discussion.”

As for the i3? Irlinger said it “would be decided by time” if the model remained a success.

In response to this, BMW New Zealand spokesman Paul Sherley reminded that the i programme was started as a development platform for creating a new concept in future mobility.

“As such when the i3 was ‘born’ it pioneered new EV technology, carbon fibre technology and extensive use of sustainable materials.

“The i8 was an extension of this in the sense of it being a “progressive sports car”, once again showing what can be done with a lower environmental footprint. 

“BMW i remains a launch platform for new technology, and as publicly stated previously, the upcoming iNEXT coming in 2021 will be the launch of next-level autonomous driving technology.  Which will then progressively become available across other models in the range.”

Whatever happens next, the i8 Roadster programme does not seem to be under any immediate threat.

Sherley has confirmed BMW NZ intends to have the car here around June and has suggested there is more than a little interest from customers, including the enclave presently supporting the i8 coupe. No price has been set yet, he added.

“The Roadster is more than just an evolution of the Coupe for us," he said.

"It’s about bringing pure, electrified, open-top driving pleasure to the road. Combining electric and open-top driving is quite a new concept.  For that reason too, the i8 Roadster will likely appeal to a different customer to that of the Coupe.”

The Roadster has also retained the aspects which make the Coupe so special, he added. Examples being the gullwing doors, the exposed CFRP construction, the intelligent lightweight construction, and the advanced powertrain concept.

International commentators have reminded that, since the i3 and i8 came out, other manufacturers have gone onto actively pursue electric solutions, and market demands have shifted.

They remind that the i3 was designed to pioneer BMW’s electric technology, while the i8 was showcased as an extravagant flagship offering electrified technologies in support of performance.

Both have since been followed up by hybrid models across the BMW portfolio, and will soon be accompanied by regular electric models including a rumoured sports utility some time in 2020.

That’s not the end of it. By 2025 BMW will offer 25 models with an electrified drive system – of which 12 will be pure-electric. The determining factor for each will be whether BMW wants to showcase that vehicle’s technology before adapting to its regular passenger range.

Moving forward, too, all BMWs will be underpinned by one of two platforms, the rear-drive CLAR architecture and the front-drive FAAR architecture.

Each will be adaptable to standard internal combustion, plug-in hybrid applications where the axle not driven by the engine is electrified and fully electric drivetrains.

Notwithstanding, the i8 Roadster seems set to have its place in the sun. The two-seater’s Detroit display was not its debut – that occurred at the Los Angeles motor show late last year – but it nonetheless attracted a lot of attention.

The model arrives five years after the unveiling of the Coupe. The two versions share a common drivetrain, of course, but the new model still demanded an extensive redesign.

The Roadster’s roof mechanism and structural reinforcements add a respectable 60kg to its kerb weight, rated at 1595kg. The folding top was not easy feat, because BMW decided it had to fully retract into the car’s rear end. This process takes 15 seconds and operates at up to 50kmh.