DETROIT -- BMW will get 50 percent more i8 plug-in hybrids -- 1,000-plus cars -- in the U.S. this year than in 2014, but that still won't be enough to fill the order bank.
The wait for an i8, with a list price of $137,450, including shipping, is about a year, said Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America. BMW has said it will make fewer of the smaller i3 electric vehicles this year so that it can increase i8 production. But those cars won't make it to the U.S. until October.
The i8 has become a halo car and is drawing customers to BMW, Willisch said. "It is a brand shaper," because the two-door carbon-fiber sports car "stands for all of the technology BMW has to offer -- and has 72 mpg mileage."
Willisch said sales of the i3 are also exceeding targets and that he doesn't expect falling gasoline prices to slow sales. BMW expects to sell about 1,000 i3s a month in 2015 in the U.S., Willisch said. Last year, BMW sold 6,092 i3s and 555 i8s here. The i3 went on sale last spring, and i8 sales began in August.
Willisch also gave an update on BMW's Future Retail 2016 dealership standards. The standards were rolled out last year, and 150 dealers are either building new stores or refurbishing. BMW has 339 dealerships. The remaining ones must comply by the end of next year. Willisch said total dealer investment will be about $500 million.
He denied rumors that BMW will build an i9 supercar positioned above the i8. But he said the redesigned 7-series sedan will show a further leap in BMW technology -- "in manufacturing and connectivity and luxury perception."
The 7 series is expected to debut in September at the Frankfurt auto show and go on sale in the fourth quarter. "People will not be disappointed," Willisch said.
BMW has struggled to keep 7-series sales in the U.S. from further declining -- they fell 11 percent to 9,744 in 2014. Meanwhile, the technologically advanced Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan had an increase of 90 percent in 2014 to 25,276.
The 7 series is expected to feature carbon fiber, magnesium and aluminum in its construction.