BMW is targeting another ambitious hike in plug-in hybrid and battery car sales next year to defend its position in the electric-car shift as competitors like Volkswagen ready their own battery lineups.
The planned increase to about 150,000 cars sold would represent a 50% rise from this year, and a jump of about two-thirds from last year’s deliveries of green cars. BMW, an early mover in the electric-car shift with 2013’s i3, is facing competition from rivals like Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.
“We’ll definitely boost sales by a mid-double digit amount,” Klaus Froehlich, who heads development for BMW, said. “This is to stay ahead of the competition that’s starting to do its own rollout.”
Faced with tightening emissions regulation, BMW and other carmakers are spending record amounts developing a more attractive suite of electric cars to kick-start sluggish consumer sales.
The payoff remains uncertain, as high battery prices will squeeze returns compared to equivalent combustion engine vehicles — at least for a number of years. Demand for the vehicles remains at a fraction of total auto sales, with BMW’s target paling compared to its total 2016 deliveries of 2.4 million vehicles.
BMW is in the midst of a record rollout of 40 all-new and revamped vehicles this year and next, seeking to wrest back global leadership of luxury car sales from Mercedes. Its Stuttgart-based rival overtook BMW last year for the first time in a decade, after overhauling a stodgy line-up with sportier styling and adding new models.
BMW’s electric push coincides with the biggest transformation for the industry in decades, drawing in a host of new competitors like Tesla and Uber. BMW last month flagged it will spend €7bn on R&D this year, as much as 2011 and 2012 taken together.
BMW’s struggles with slow sales of the i3 city car, which used a lightweight carbon-fibre body for the first time in a mass-produced vehicle, prompted the carmaker to dial back its electric ambitions and pause from adding more electric-only models to its line-up.
In the future, BMW will bundle its electric model versions under its ‘i’ brand, and has reserved naming rights for models iX1 through iX9. Next year, it’s bringing out an electric Mini, followed by a battery-powered X3 sport utility vehicle in 2020.