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‘Ultimate electric’ BMWs

Charger: BMW Australia chief Phil Horton wants the company to become Ultimate Electric Driving Machine brand through cars like the i8 plug-in hybrid coupe.

BMW’s new electric ‘i’ cars need to be the best, says BMW Australia chief

1 Sep 2011

BMW needs to become the Ultimate Electric Driving Machine brand, according to BMW Australia managing director Phil Horton.

Speaking with GoAuto at this week’s 1 Series M Coupe launch in Victoria, Mr Horton said new electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to be rolled out under BMW’s new ‘i’ sub-brand from 2013 were essential additions for a brand that kept moving forward.

But he said it was not enough for BMW to make ordinary electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“Now we are the Ultimate Driving Machine,” he said. “We need to be the Ultimate Electric Driving Machine.” BMW is preparing to publicly reveal concepts of its all-electric i3 city runabout and plug-in hybrid i8 sports coupe at this month’s Frankfurt motor show, along with the new fifth-generation M5 super sedan and Mini Coupe.

The four-seat i8, powered by a combination of high-performance 164kW/300Nm three-cylinder engine over the rear axle and 96kW/250Nm electric motor at the front, is said to be capable of accelerating from standstill to 100km/h in less than five seconds – faster than some of BMW’s famed M-enhanced cars – while consuming just 2.7 litres of fuel per 100km in the combined fuel consumption test.

14 center imageLeft: BMW Australia managing director Phil Horton. Below: BMW i3 concept.

The smaller i3 also seats four, covering an “everyday range” of up to 160km in its all-electric concept form with a 125kW/250Nm electric motor that can propel it to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds.

Mr Horton, who took over the reins at BMW Australia about six months ago, said the first electrified i-BMWs were scheduled to appear in showrooms in 2013, most likely first in ‘megacities’ such as New York, London and Beijing for which the i3 in particular had been conceived.

He said Australia would not be a priority for these cars, but he was keen to get them here as soon as possible, probably starting with the i3 in 2014.

Mr Horton said the low volumes required for Australia should mean that BMW could fill an order fairly early after the launching in the major markets.

“What volume are we thinking about? Probably in the low hundreds,” he said. “So it is not like we need 20,000 of them.

“The car (i3) is an important indicator of a brand that keeps moving forward, so it is important that we have it here.” Pre-publicity for the i3 describes it as an all-electric car, but as GoAuto reported from Europe after the vehicles were previewed to the media ahead of the Frankfurt reveal, the car will also be available as a petrol-electric range extender vehicle – called REx – similar in concept to General Motors’ Volt.

This week, Mr Horton was quoted by Drive as saying he favoured a petrol-electric range-extender version of the i3 for Australia.

“My personal view is the range extender is the way to go,” he was quoted as saying. “For me, when we start looking at the actual product itself, I would be looking to probably bring the range extender in as standard.” The i3 is scheduled to be followed by the i8 hybrid, and if US reports are to be believed, an i4 and i5.

While electrified vehicles are coming down the pipeline from BMW, don’t expect any to appear with ‘M’ badges any time soon.

M Division sales manager for Asia, Pacific and the Middle East, Marcel Muhl, said in Melbourne this week that BMW’s two sub-brands were operating separately with their own objectives for the BMW brand.

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