At BMW, a careful eye on the EV market

The BMW i3 has been on sale in Germany for only six weeks, and BMW already has more than 10,000 orders. Photo credit: SHIRAZ AHMED

DETROIT -- BMW of North America has 100,000 hand-raisers for the new i3 compact electric car, CEO Ludwig Willisch says.

Of course, not all of the prospects will turn into orders or sales, but BMW figures it will take "a few years" to satisfy demand for the i3, Willisch said.

Deliveries of the i3 will begin in late April and the United States will be the biggest market for the carbon-fiber car.

Pricing on the i3 starts at $42,275, including shipping, before a $7,500 federal tax credit or any state incentives. Pricing on the range extender variant, with a two-cylinder gasoline engine used to recharge the battery, starts at $46,125.

The car has been on sale in Germany for only six weeks, and BMW already has more than 10,000 orders.

BMW executives won't say how many i3s they want to sell in the first year. But CEO Norbert Reithofer said during the car's unveiling in July that BMW expected about 10,000 global i3 sales in 2014.

So when Willisch says BMW will sell "every car we get our hands on" in the United States, he isn't exaggerating.

But BMW isn't ready to make any decision on whether to expand production, says Ian Robertson, board member for sales and marketing. "We are a cautious company," he said. "Six months down the road we will see where we are and decide if we want to do something else."

BMW has the capacity at its Leipzig, Germany, factory to assemble more i3s. It also can boost output of the car's carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic passenger cell at SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, the manufacturing joint venture formed by BMW and SGL Group, in Moses Lake, Wash., Robertson said.

But BMW also wants to better understand and watch the EV segment, "which is very immature," Robertson said. "It's not like bringing a new 3 series with 50 years of understanding. This is all new."

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at -- Follow Diana T. on Twitter: @dianakurylko



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