BMW i3 London test drive easier to arrange than expected

Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent at Automotive News Europe.Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent at Automotive News Europe.
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BMW says it will take months to get through its waiting list of people in the UK who want to test drive the new i3 electric car, but I was able to arrange a test drive in London in a fraction of that time.

With a population of 8 million, London is a key European megacity, making it crucial to the i3's success in the region, BMW head of sales and marketing Ian Robertson told journalists in the city this week. If BMW can't sell them in London, "then we're in trouble," the executive added.

In the UK BMW has 47 dealers handling sales for its new i subbrand. Those dealers have arranged 1,000 test drives -- resulting in 300 sales -- in three weeks, with another 6,000 booked and waiting, UK i subbrand boss Suzanne Gray told me.

It is estimated that some people will wait up to five months to test the i3.

Could that be true? I wanted to know for myself. On BMW's Web site I found the number for the i Customer Information Team in the UK and posing as a customer I asked about getting a test drive. "I live in London. ­Do I have a long wait,?" I asked. No, I was told: "You'll have no problem getting a test drive within a week."

Uncommon snag

Robertson also said the the launch of the i3 has run into an unexpected problem. Getting through the list has been slowed by the requirement to recharge the i3 between uses, he said.

Enthusiasm for the car has been so great that globally there are now 100,000 people waiting for a test drive, Robertson said.

The delay hasn't dampened interest. BMW has taken more than 10,000 orders for the i3 in its first three weeks of availability in Europe. The car starts at 25,680 pounds (31,000 euros) in the UK after factoring in the government's 5,000 pound incentive.

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