Hyundai considers legal position over BMW i subbrand

Paul McVeigh is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.Paul McVeigh is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.
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Companies are increasingly adding the letter "i" to new products, possibly to capture a little of Apple's success with its iPhone, iPad and iPod. But has BMW gone too far calling its new electric car subbrand "i"?

Hyundai thinks so. Hyundai has been selling cars with the "i" prefix in Europe for some time now, including the i10 minicar and i30 compact model. It debuted the i40 mid-sized car at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday.

A Hyundai executive told me the company was "flattered" that BMW had copied its use of the letter, but its legal team is investigating whether the German premium brand is breaching Hyundai's trademark.

BMW, which last week announced the first two models for its new subbrand, the i3 electric city car and i8 plug-in hybrid, doesn't see an issue.

Ian Robertson, BMW sales and marketing chief, says the company's legal advisers are OK with the company using the letter "i" in combination with a single-digit number.

"We don't fear any legal action from Hyundai especially as we invented the i-drive and always talked about the 'project i' for the subbrand," Robertson told Automotive News Europe

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