By on September 16, 2019

BMW’s i3 has reached the end of its road. The manufacturer recently stated that the model will not be updated, adding that there’s no plan for a successor. Despite the oddball Bimmer serving as the technological basis for the Mini Electric slated to launch next year, the i3 is going to stick around in its current form until the company has no further use for it.

Released in 2013, the i3 was Bavaria’s first stab at a mass-market EV. While this author sees them routinely parked in coastal cities, they’re an anomaly elsewhere. Overt success has eluded the model in the United States, with annual sales dropping from a high of 11,024 units in 2015 to just 6,117 deliveries in 2018. This year’s U.S. sales look to be even weaker for the model.

Fortunately for BMW Group, European sales have been on the rise every year since the car’s introduction. Last year, that resulted in 24,252 deliveries for the region — with 2019 already positioned to surpass that figure easily. 

With numbers like that, it’s easy to see why the manufacturer is having difficulties deciding what to do with the EV. The model isn’t a hit but, as far as EVs are concerned, it’s not exactly a failure. “There’s no specific plan for an i3 successor,” Pieter Nota, BMW’s sales and marketing chief, told the Financial Times in a recent interview. “We are now bringing electrification more to the mainstream.”

The current strategy involves keeping the i3 around, unchanged, for the next few years while BMW works toward finishing new EVs and adding more plug-in options to its current lineup. It also likely doesn’t want to spent a lot of time and money developing a new version of vehicle that would likely usurp sales from the upcoming Mini Electric.

From FT:

BMW is installing plug-in hybrid technology into its best-selling models, which allows them to drive using electric power in cities and conventionally on longer journeys.

The carmaker also plans 13 battery-only models by 2023, a timeframe that was recently brought forward because of impending emissions targets.

At the Frankfurt Motor Show last week the company unveiled the design for an electric car coming out in 2021, as well as showing the electric Mini that will go on sale next year.

Currently in its fifth iteration, BMW has sold more than 150,000 i3 cars to date, with higher demand every year, as the nascent market for electric vehicles blossomed.

While numerous claims state that the design theory used by BMW on the i3 and i8 will also be abandoned on future, the company’s Vision iNEXT (above) concept continues to appear at automotive trade shows wearing similar black body panels and blue accenting. We even saw the concept at the Frankfurt Auto Show this month. That doesn’t mean BMW intends on keeping the design as is, especially considering its highly unconventional interior. But it does suggest that the company isn’t nixing the funky i-design theory in its entirety.

Subsequent prototypes and concept vehicles for future EVs also showcase similar design cues, albeit in a much subtler format. Teasers for the electrified 2021 i4 sedan and 2020 iX3 (below) crossover previewed both vehicles with only minor black and blue accenting along the side sills and rear bumper.

[Images: BMW]

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27 Comments on “BMW Says No Successor Planned for i3 Hatchback...”

  • avatar

    I do occasionally see one in the Atlanta metro area.

    They’re nowhere near as common as Tesla Model 3s, which are becoming commonplace.

  • avatar

    Nor should there be…now, can we talk about BMW’s new “Gopher” design language??

  • avatar

    No big loss.

  • avatar

    “BMW is installing plug-in hybrid technology into its best-selling models, which allows them to drive using electric power in cities and conventionally on longer journeys.”

    Sounds like a good idea. That’s the sweet spot for me. There’s no EV range anxiety when you have a full gas-hybrid powertrain to take you back home. The engine in my C-Max Energi seems to run about half time, as it gets almost twice the MPGs of my identical hybrid (72 vs. 37).

    Economy, performance, range- now you can pick three fo three.

  • avatar

    I think the design was just too goofy, and the price a bit too high.

    If you drive in the city, though, keep your eye out for used i3s. They’re pretty fun city cars and they’re starting to get cheap.

    • 0 avatar

      Keep in mind that the only tires available for them are summer tires and that you will procure them either from the dealer for more money than you saved not buying a Leaf instead or merely lots of money and a couple of days of inconvenience getting them from Tire Rack. Tire Rack is a viable option when you’re planning on buying new tires, but not necessarily an option if you lose a tire to a road hazard. I can find no option for freezing weather. The i3 makes the Cygnet look like an intelligent purchase.

      • 0 avatar

        There are both Blizzak and Nokian options for it at Discount Tire.

      • 0 avatar

        The best winter tires for the i3 are the Continental Winter Contact TS850P. But there are others to choose from, nowadays the selection is pretty wide: Nokian has 3 different models to choose from, Bridgestone has at least 2 models to choose from, then there’s the Goodyear, Nankang, and Continental has a second model also.

        Nowadays there is this thing called the internet, so hopefully someone will supply some of those tires wherever you live.

  • avatar

    If they’re truly committed to the lower end of the electric market, and the mini-e is based off the i3, why wouldn’t an updated i3 mean an updated mini-e? That doesn’t especially bode well for mini, not that it’s in a great position already.

    • 0 avatar

      The electric Minis and the i3 have nothing in common. The i3 is on a unique RWD platform.

      • 0 avatar

        “Despite the oddball Bimmer serving as the technological basis for the Mini Electric slated to launch next year”

        Is this article wrong then? I’m not claiming to know for sure, but it sounded reasonable when i read it.

        • 0 avatar

          What, you expect perfection from TTAC staff? Reading elsewhere, where preconceived notions seem to be left at the door instead of fantasized out loud, BMW is dropping that funky and expensive carbon fiber body the i3 used, and going mainstream. To be charitable, the technology carryover might mean the battery, electric motor and controller moved to FWD for the new smaller BMW EV models. Rear-engine RWD is so 911 and Tesla.

          • 0 avatar

            I certainly am not surprised when any auto blog is plain wrong. But I’m not a BMW guy and I’d have guessed the i3 was fwd.

      • 0 avatar

        Their structure has nothing in common. But in fact the Mini electric model has its drivetrain (motor, battery, charger, inverters, controller, etc.) basically almost straight from the i3, with the motor plopped into the front.

  • avatar

    Fair number of these running around Puget Sound. A lot more Teslas running around here, but there is a surprising number of i3s. Butt ugly things – almost like what the Honda Element would have become (the cladded version) had it kept evolving

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Don’t forget the i3 REX, the 650 cc range extender which can’t power the car up a grade, making that version downright dangerous when the battery is depleted.

    The i3 also has a very tiny back seat and an odd door configuration.

    • 0 avatar

      Only in the US (if the owner hasn’t reprogrammed it to the non-US spec).

      Elsewhere the i3 isn’t electronically restricted and it will turn on the range extender earlier which means you won’t have a completely empty battery. Or you can turn it on at any point you wish (best to use up most of the gasoline pretty early on, and then in the end to fine-tune your battery use before stopping for a charge, plus you can leave a bit in case the charger is not working).

      The i3 range extender, even with the battery just about empty (it tries to hold a bit of battery level specifically for inclines and other situations with high energy demand), will keep the car going on well enough as long as it’s not an unusually long and steep incline.

  • avatar

    This is the only current BMW I actually like. The interior design and layout is very cool IMO.

  • avatar

    Stated range of these was 20-30% off. Drive it normally and 81 mile range means 60. Also, the Rex model had a problem with exhaust smells entering the cabin.

    No surprise the resale on these is so bad

  • avatar

    Grill is too small – good riddance. Bring here concept 4 with regular size grill, then we talk.

  • avatar

    Good, it was styled so it didn’t appeal to anyone who cared how their car looks to ensure it did not cannibalise sales of more profitable BMW’s. As a test-bed its time is over.

    However, I do like the series-hybrid format that was available with the i3, I like the idea of only having enough (very expensive and heavy) batteries for my 80-miles per day commute with an ICE to kick-in (always running at it’s most efficient load/speed) to keep the batteries topped up for a long drive and/or to warm the cabin in very cold weather. Rather than carrying a huge battery that I rarely use but still isn’t enough for occasional long-distance travel.

    I think the series-hybrid format could give greatly reduced emissions without the range anxiety, unlike a parallel-hybrid it eliminates the transmission and since the sustained load on an engine is only a fraction of the maximum the ICE can be quite modest in size.

  • avatar

    The only wonderful thing about it was the interior design and the use of recycled materials, which points towards how vehicular cabins will be made in the future using renewable and eco-friendly materials such as cloth instead of leather.

    Outwards, I have always felt that the i3 was a monstrosity, a jumbled up and mishmash design that made no sense in the context of BMWs specific design language. The i8 is not much better.

    • 0 avatar

      I would say that just about everything about the i3 was excellent. Just the shape (high, narrow, short, with a 2-seat backseat) and (outside)design was a huge mistake. (The range was low-ish just because of what level the technology was at back then, IMO it was a good strategy to keep the batteries light and compact enough).

      Watch the documentary about how the i3 was designed, and you’ll see that those uselessly nerdy directors who led the project and the limp-wristed french guys (!) who designed it were bound to make a very un-manly, un-sporty crapbox.

    • 0 avatar

      Thomas, how much waste is recycled exactly in your town? E.g. how many recycling bins do you have at home?

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