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BMW bides its time over next EV

2015 BMW X3 (ICE)

Company confirms an all-electric BMW X3 SUV, but it will hit not hit the roads for another four years

BMW’s next electric car, a sports utility vehicle (SUV), will be launched in 2020.

Rumours of the vehicle have been circulating for a while. A week or so ago, sources told auto industry media that it would most likely be the i5 SUV. The suggestion was logical, given the company’s current i range: the smaller, urban-focused i3 EV and the more futuristic, sportier i8 Roadster expected in 2018.

In addition, an SUV would offer the firm a rival product to Tesla’s Model X.

The rumours followed murmurings earlier in the year which suggested that another new vehicle – also referred to as the i NEXT – could be a family saloon.

Last week however, BMW Group’s quarterly result included some firmer details. In a statement, the company noted that: “Alongside the previously announced expansion of the BMW i model range to include the BMW i8 Roadster and the BMW iNEXT…will be an all-electric MINI in 2019, followed by an all-electric BMW X3 in 2020.”

If it is anything like its ICE sibling, the X3 should prove a capable rival to Tesla’s X – although no details on range or battery size have emerged so far. Moreover, the SUV segment has accelerating sales and good profit margins for carmakers, while its body style also easily accommodates a battery pack. They are also pretty popular in the vital American market.

 

2020 vision

The launch date is strategic for the German carmaker. Ian Robertson, the company’s head of sales and marketing, told Autocar that BMW is waiting until 2020 to take advantage of “the next big steps in electric motor, battery and autonomy.”

In its quarterly results, the carmaker also stated that “BMW Group will press ahead with its plans to systematically transfer all-electric, battery-powered mobility to its core brands.” If that’s true, the X3 and MINI could well be the start of a wider push towards vehicle electrification, but whether this will take the form of hybrids, or all-electrics, we can’t be sure.

What is clear is that BMW intends to push electrification as a business in itself. As well as referencing the promised i NEXT Roberton added that: “We are at the very early stages of i, but already we’re coming up to our 100,000th registration. Just as with M, there are opportunities that take time to build up, from i cars to i Performance products to i kit, such as an electric scooter.”

Projections from chairman Harald Kruger were equally bombastic: “We are absolutely convinced that the mobility of tomorrow is sustainable… Years ago, we announced our unambiguous commitment to electric mobility and achieved technological leadership in this field. Growing customer demand confirms that we are on the right track and that now is the right time to take the next steps.”

However, 2021 is a long way off. Despite BMW’s relative success in the sector with its i-series, it has been slow to offer much more than incremental battery and range improvements to the i3. As with most automakers, BMW has also failed to keep pace with Tesla in terms of vehicle capability and product range. The MINI and X variants will help to amend that, but BMW will have to make sure that “the next big steps in electric motor, battery and autonomy,” are greater than it has taken so far, lest it be left behind.

 

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