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As consumers clamor for its i3 EV, BMW may ramp up to make more


With a body that only a mother could love, the i3 pre-orders are out pacing even Bimmer's highest hopes.

The i3 electric city car is BMW’s big gamble and, for the moment, it seems to be paying off.

Early demand for the car has been high, and BMW is thinking about increasing production, Bloomberg reports.

With a month to go before the i3 hits European showrooms, BMW has already taken over 8,000 reservations for the pint-sized EV.

“If demand holds, which is what it’s looking like, we will soon have to invest more,” BMW chief financial officer Friedrich Eichiner told Bloomberg at a press conference in Amsterdam.

BMW hopes to sell more than 10,000 i3s next year, but will “adjust capacity according to demand,” he said.

That’s good news for a company that has staked its reputation – and a considerable amount of money – on a radically new car.

Unlike other large carmakers, which so far have primarily based their electric cars on existing platforms, BMW decided to build the i3 from scratch. With its carbon fiber-reinforced plastic crash structure and separate aluminum chassis, the i3 has very little in common with most BMW cars.

According to Automotive News (sub. required), BMW has invested at least $2.7 billion in i3 development.

If the i3 proves to be a sales success, it may indicate that electric cars have reached a tipping point.

One of the major drawbacks to current EVs is range anxiety, and with an estimated range of 80 to 100 miles, the i3 doesn’t dramatically improve on existing cars like the Nissan Leaf. For significantly better range, drivers still have to step up to a Tesla Model S.

To deal with range anxiety, BMW will offer the i3 with a range-extending gasoline engine (although it doesn’t think most customers will partake) and offering to arrange loaner cars for longer trips.

Whether the early enthusiasm for the i3 stems from consumers who firmly believe the i3 has adequate range, or from people who are just enamored with the car’s newness, is unclear.

Like many other green cars, the i3 is different, and thus fashionable. BMW hopes its unique exterior and interior styling will reboot people’s idea of what a luxury car can be; for now, consumers seem to be buying into the novelty.

We’re eager to see if that novelty holds as the i3 enters the real world. Production has already begun; the i3 will arrive in U.S. showrooms next spring.

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