What Becomes of BMW's I-Cars After 2020?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

BMW always hinted that the first round of electrified vehicles populating its i sub-brand were developed to dazzle consumers with tech and probe the market’s willingness for EVs. The company is now developing two new models for the group: the iNext crossover and i4 sedan. However, both vehicles are in the midst of development and are likely to take a while to get to market. Furthermore, the brand has said it will use modular architecture kits on all models for at least the next 10 years.

That leaves the i3 and i8 in a slightly awkward position. Launched in 2014, both cars will need to remain relevant over the next few years while BMW preps the next batch of EVs. But the automaker’s continued reliance on flexible platforms that can handle gasoline and/or electric drivetrains isn’t likely to bode well for them in the aftermath. As experiments, neither model is guaranteed to persist far into the 2020s — at least not as we know them today.

The i3 is most likely to evolve into an electrified version of the X1 crossover, called the BMW iX1, using the new front-drive FAAR platform. This leaves the automaker open to create an entirely new i3 or simply kill the model off. But if it were to stay on, BMW makes it sound as if the vehicle would be a director competitor to Tesla’s Model 3.

That requires a pretty big leap of faith, though. With the brand overhauling its core platforms to accommodate both electric and internal combustion units, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to make the i3 a unique model. Instead, we’re probably going to see most i-badged vehicles become battery electric or hybridized versions of its core lineup — just with some distinctive bodywork. Things are a little different with the i8, as it was never intended for the masses. But BMW’s head of electric powertrains, Stefan Juraschek, cast further doubt on the models’ future at the New York International Auto Show.

“These cars are very unique,” Juraschek told Automotive News in an interview. “These two cars were not [developed] as a family that we can expand in different [ways] or maybe five or 10 derivatives.”

The iX1 is expected to come out in 2022, which would probably be very near the expiration date for the current i3. In the interim, the electric hatchback can enjoy its 2018 refresh and new sport package. The i8 will also get a mid-cycle update this year, though it seems BMW hasn’t made up its mind on how to handle its future.

Juraschek’s words and BMW’s EV strategy don’t appear to leave much room for the hybrid sports coupe. But BMW Blog claims the manufacturer is currently considering the value of building a successor to the i8. If the model is deemed worthy of a second generation, there are two paths BMW could take. The first involves sticking with the plug-in hybrid setup, while upping the ante in terms of performance and range. But the second would be to make it an all-electric hypercar, something to showcase the dynamic might of EVs at the total expense of practicality.

Regardless, the iNext and i Vision Dynamics-based i4 will come out years before the prospective i8 even has a chance to finish development. We couldn’t imagine anything reaching production before 2023. By that time, the current-gen i8 will be a technological dinosaur and a large portion of the brand’s lineup will be riding on the electrically adaptable FAAR and (rear-drive) CLAR platforms.

[Images: BMW Group]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 9 comments
  • Zane Wylder Zane Wylder on Apr 05, 2018

    Should turn the I8 into an M1, with the 4.4tt and either the 8spd auto, 7spd dct or 7spd Manual As for the i3... Who cares

  • SSJeep SSJeep on Apr 06, 2018

    I have driven an i3 and really enjoyed it. The biggest problem with the i3 - believe it or not - is the tire and rim package. i3 tires are made by only one manufacturer and in one size designed exclusively for the i3. There are no other aftermarket options available. Same goes for the rims. And the i3 tires are not known for longevity, handling, or puncture resistance. I do wish BMW would fix this, or at least I hope that a manufacturer would develop a standard size tire and wheel package for the i3. A loaded i3 is very inexpensive off lease right now and they make a perfect commuter vehicle otherwise.

    • See 1 previous
    • Lockstops Lockstops on Apr 06, 2018

      As for rims: you are incorrect on that too. There are several good quality aftermarket rims on offer: Brock eB1 in two colours, MAK Watt, Rial X10 at least. Only in 19" size though. I've found only more expensive custom manufacture wheels in 20", like PUR: http://www.purwheels.com/gallery/gallery_set/293

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.