In a move designed to match what BMW sees as a rapidly changing global landscape, the carmaker has used the 2011 Geneva Motor Show to launch a new sub-brand. Called "BMW i," the company it hopes will attract the growing base of younger urbanites who are both socially and environmentally aware – and also have a bit of extra cash lying around.
The sub-brand will initially focus on electric vehicles, but could expand to include conventional hybrids, diesels and even motorcycles as time goes on. Its first two products, the i3 and the i8, are due out in 2013.
"BMW i sets out to appeal to new groups of customers who lead cosmopolitan, socially responsible and sustainable lifestyles – people who place great importance on design quality, innovation, safety and durability," wrote Tobias Hahn, BMW Group Technology Communications, in an email to AutoTrader. "The products and services have been conceived around a revolutionary approach: purpose designed and purpose built for sustainable, premium mobility," added Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Sales and Marketing.
The i3 – previously known as the Megacity electric vehicle – is a fully electric small hatchback designed specifically for urban areas. The i8 builds off of BMW's stunning Vision EfficientDynamics concept, and will be a plug-in hybrid sports car that aims to have the performance of a high end BMW, but the mileage of a small fuel sipper by combining batteries and a motor with gasoline and an engine.
Both vehicles will be built using construction techniques pioneered by BMW. Called LifeDrive, this new architecture consists of an all-aluminum chassis containing the powertrain, mated to a passenger compartment made of a very strong and extremely lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic. As previously announced, all of the carbon fiber parts for these two vehicles – regardless of where they are sold around the world – will be made in a factory in rural Washington state using clean hydroelectric power.
BMW says LifeDrive construction enables more flexibility with creative vehicle shape and design–allowing for the futuristic, sweeping shapes that BMW thinks young cosmopolitan drivers desire. Given that vehicle weight has a large influence on fuel economy, the inclusion of lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber in the BMW i cars also means they will be much more efficient compared to similarly sized vehicles made of steel.
In conjunction with the release of the new sub-brand, BMW announced it will roll out a new suite of premium mobility services that younger urbanites consider vital to daily life at this point. BMW says these services will be useful both inside and outside the car and has already made one – MyCityWay – available for download to Apple's iPhone. The company promises many more such applications will become available before the launch of the new vehicles and is soliciting additional application pitches from developers via a new website, bmw-i.com.
"Mobility requirements are changing in rapidly expanding megacities," said Robertson. "Our commitment to car-enabled mobility services, like BMW ConnectedDrive, will be significantly expanded under BMW i. We'll also grow our car-related premium mobility services. What's truly groundbreaking is that we'll begin offering car-independent premium mobility services. BMW i aims to provide customized mobility solutions across a seamless network of premium products and premium services."
NICK CHAMBERS is a "next generation" car enthusiast, recognized for his green automotive coverage in Gas 2.0, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com. In addition, he's been syndicated in Matter Network, AP and Reuters.