BMW Uses Olympics, Chicago Auto Show to Market I Series in U.S., Offers Loaners to Offset Range Anxiety
BMW has reportedly spent billions of dollars so far on developing various aspects of its carbon fiber intensive and electric powered i series of cars. The Bavarian automaker obviously wants to get that money back and more so it is now using high profile events to launch the i subbrand in North America, including buying ads during the opening ceremony and other broadcasts from the Winter Olympics currently being held in Sochi, Russia. The first of three ads that BMW will be running during the NBC network’s coverage of the Olympic games is called “Hello Future” and uses a 1964 recording of futurist Arthur C. Clarke to promote the $136,000 i8 hybrid super car. A second ad for the i8 is called “ Sighting“, showing people’s reaction to first seeing the car. The more mass market $41,300 i3 is being sold with “ SHHH“, depicting a teenager using his father’s silent i3 to sneak a nighttime joyride with a girl he’s trying to impress. He gets the girl but dad has been tracking the car with BMW’s i remote app.
The Winter Olympics have some of the biggest television audiences of the year. The Chicago Auto Show has the biggest attendance of any car show in North America. The i3 and i8 were also a major focus of BMW’s display and press conference at the Chicago show. Journalists clambered all over and inside the i3, complete with production stickers on its hemp paneled doors, that was on the show floor.
The i8 is going on sale later this year and while it isn’t quite in production like the i3 is, by now BMW has enough preproduction and validation models made that instead of the charcoal grey i8 that they showed in Detroit, at Chicago’s McCormick Place a gleaming pearl white i8 coupe was behind glass barriers next to the i3.
While the i8 is more of a plug-in hybrid, the i3, even with its gasoline-powered range extender, has still compelled BMW to come up with a rather novel solution to range anxiety. Buyers of the i3 can reserve the use of conventional gasoline or diesel-powered loaner cars should they need one for a long distance trip.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS
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"...by now BMW has enough preproduction and validation models made that instead of the charcoal grey i8 that they showed in Detroit, at Chicago’s McCormick Place a gleaming pearl white i8 coupe..." Hmmm... They _did_ have time to re-paint it in between, right?
I actually testdrove the i3 this weekend, and I was very impressed, apart from the color choice for the top tier model (I hate black interiors. Its why I am NOT getting a launch-edition i3. Period.). Like all electrics, it feels faster than it really is thanks to the instant throttle response, and, like the Tesla, it is set up for 1-pedal driving (essential in an EV). It also feels very light and airy, with a high seating position, wide windows, and good all-round visibility. Its also, on wet asphalt, possible to outdrive the computer and get a bit of tail-wag: it is RWD and feels like it. The airyness is further helped by the dash/infotainment design, where two screen are basically floating high, and there are (gasp) real buttons for radio and climate control. From a user-interface standpoint, its night and day compared with the Tesla. The Model S, with its touchscreen-only controls (and the fixed controls at the BOTTOM of the screen) is Windows 8: It sounds like a good idea but you quickly realize you wish you stuck with XP. The i3, OTOH, is OS-X Mavericks: a conventional interface polished to a mirror shine. And the range extender (apart from the dinky tank for legal reasons) is the right fast-charger solution: A gas pump is a 3 MW fast charger, 10x the power of Tesla's vaunted "supercharger" or the SAE DC fast-charger than the i3 (optionally) employs. Yet a 80-100 mile range, rather than the Volt's 40, is a big difference for a longer-distance commuter. Basically, the result should be that you almost never gas up, but at the same time, never have to worry about finding a charge. Overall, the REX i3 is roughly ~$10K-12K more than a Volt with comparable equipment, and its worth every penny. I sat in the Volt afterwards (having previously driven it on a testdrive too), and it felt like being in a tank in comparison, much more cramped back seat, much less useful cargo room, etc. The i3 is also why the ELR is DOA: For ELR money you can either get an i3 and a base Miata as a weekend car, or you can get a Model S. Both will blow away the ERL in room, handling, comfort, power, etc. The Volt drivetrain is good for a boring, commuter car. But in a Caddilac, it doesn't hold a candle to the (vastly cheaper) i3, and it is completely, totally, and utterly outclassed by the same-price Tesla.