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BMW limits i3 crash repairs to Brisbane, Melbourne

Remote control: BMW says some i3s may need to travel thousands of kilometres for repairs after a crash.

Post-crash repairs could clock up the miles for BMW’s innovative i3

BMW logo14 Apr 2014

BMW owners unfortunate enough to be tangled up in a car crash may need to ship their car thousands of kilometres away to have them repaired.

The German luxury car-maker has revealed that its innovative i3 battery-powered car that launches in Australia late this year, and its i8 plug-in hybrid sportscar that lands early next year, will have to travel to one of only two specialist centres in either Brisbane or Melbourne for a fix.

According to BMW “i” strategy manager Romala Pillay, the special lightweight construction of both cars, made using plastics reinforced with carbon fibre and aluminium, will need specialist repairs that will only be available in the two BMW-owned workshops located in Queensland and Victoria.

“The i3 is made from some special material, so we need trained technicians to fix it,” she said.

Ms Pillay said the small volume of battery-powered and plug-in hybrid cars that BMW expected to sell – the i3 is expected to sell about 150 units a year because of pent-up demand in Europe, while the i8 will sell in much fewer numbers than that – meant it was not viable to extend repair centres to each city the cars will sell in.

BMW’s technical staff that will be authorised to make repairs to the new composite materials that feature extensively in the first two models to wear the “i” badge – the i3 hatch and i8 plug-in hybrid sportscar – have already completed training at the car-maker’s regional training centre in South Africa.

The i3 uses a carbon-fibre reinforced passenger cell that is extremely rigid, allowing the car to use a pair of forward-opening rear doors without the need for a central B-pillar.

However, the i3 scores only a lacklustre four-star EuroNCAp crash rating – the hatch was marked down for its performance in a side-on pole test, as well as its pedestrian protection rating.

According to Ms Pillay, the passenger cell was likely to stand up very well to a crash, and was unlikely to need a repair after a minor collision.

However, while repair services are likely to require a BMW-supplied trip on a flat-bed truck to a distant repair centres, the luxury car-maker will provide up to about five service centres in each capital city it will sell the i3 in – at the moment limited to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth – so that owners will have a choice of locations.

According to Ms Pillay, the i3 will cost about the same as a diesel-engined 118d to service, with the service interval for the battery-powered hatchback following a similar annual cycle to the conventionally engined car.

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