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Will BMW's Revolutionary i3 Take the World by Storm, or Crash and Burn?

BMW i3. Photo: BMW. 

It's been on sale in Europe only since November, but BMW's (NASDAQOTH: BAMXF  ) i3 has already received almost 11,000 orders globally. For its first entirely electrically powered large-scale, serial production model, that's a pretty impressive number. Additionally, the i3 will begin sales in the United States in May, and will go on sale in China and Japan sometime during the middle of this year. So is the i3 set to take the world by storm, or will it crash and burn?

Introducing BMW's i3
With a starting MSRP of $41,350, BMW's i3 is a revolutionary vehicle in every way. Built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, the i3 comes standard with a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery, and an all-electric 170-horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, motor. This allows the i3 to go 0-60 in approximately 7 seconds, and have a range of 80-100 miles in Comfort mode -- that range can be increased by 24% simply by putting the i3 in Eco Pro + mode.  

BMW i3. Photo: BMW.

For those that aren't comfortable with that range, BMW's i3 has an optional two-cylinder gasoline range extender that works as an onboard power station to extend the battery's charge -- it does not drive the wheels. This increases the range up to 186 miles in Comfort mode. With this option, the i3's starting MSRP is $45,200.

Further, as Car and Driver reports, BMW constructed the i3 with an aluminum "skateboard platform." Basically that's where the chassis is one self-contained unit, and the passenger cell, which is primarily made out of carbon fiber, is another.

Beyond the specs
That's all impressive, but of course the real question is how the i3 will affect BMW's bottom line. So far, demand has been strong, and there's currently a six-month waiting list for an i3. Plus, last October, BMW Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner said strong demand could lead BMW to increase production. The other good news is that Car and Driver reported that the i3's driving experience is "both familiar and pleasing in many ways, and unique in many others." 

More importantly, the i3 is BMW's first foray into large-scale, serial production of an EV. If it does well, there's a good possibility that BMW could extend its i line to a third model -- however, AutoNews reports that Harald Krueger, BMW's production chief, said that would depend on demand.

Consequently, while the i3 has so far seen strong demand, investors would do well to monitor how it does beyond its initial offering. If it continues to sell well, and doesn't encounter serious problems, that's likely great news for BMW. If, however, demand drops off, or major problems are reported, that should give investors pause. Regardless of how the i3 performs, BMW has a number of things going for it, and presents investors with impressive growth -- both in the U.S and China, and record-breaking sales. As such, it could merit a closer look if you're looking to profit from an auto stock. 

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Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2014, at 12:12 PM, MaxxTheKatt wrote:

    Why are Chinese consumers getting richer? Could it be they have so many of OUR manufacturing jobs I wonder?

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2014, at 11:10 PM, neamakri wrote:

    Comparing price and value, the i3 does not carve a great niche.

    (1) it costs about $14,000 more than a Nissan Leaf, but offers very little more except style.

    (2) with the extra gas engine, it costs the same as a Volt. For you Fools; go to a dealer and sit in a Volt. They are pretty nice.

    (3) at $45,000, you might think about getting a Tesla S at $70,000 for a LOT MORE car. Bigger, faster, more range, free fill ups.

    Now if you just love BMW the i3 might be for you. Or not.

  • Report this Comment On February 26, 2014, at 12:53 AM, Ustauber wrote:


    You were soooo wrong about Tesla that you should not post again trying to short the company.

  • Report this Comment On February 26, 2014, at 12:33 PM, TMFKSpence wrote:


    I've never shorted Tesla, and this article is about the i3 (it doesn't even mention Tesla. Get your facts straight.


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Katie Spence

Katie Spence has been a financial journalist for The Fool since 2011. She specializes in defense companies, “green" technology, autos, and robots. Follow her on Twitter for breaking news in the defense, auto, and robot industry.

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