July 29 - BMW is heavily promoting its new i3 electric car- with the i8 sports car to soon follow- in an effort to grab a chunk of the small but growing market for upscale electric cars. Bobbi Rebell reports
The electric car market is showing some spark. The latest entry: BMW which has been promoting its new i3 electric vehicle in a massive global marketing push. CEO Norbert Reithofer: SOUNDBITE: NORBERT REITHOFER, CEO, BMW (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's really fun to drive and its a true BMW. That means its a real ultimate driving machine." BMW is going where many have stalled out. Ford recently cut the price of its Ford Focus Electric by 10 percent- in the first half of this year it sold just 900 cars. GM is now offering incentives of up to $5000 on its Chevy Volt- and Nissan cut its Leaf price by $6,000. REPORTER BRIDGE: BOBBI REBELL, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "BMW has the advantage of learning from the mistakes of their rivals- that being practical is not enough when it comes to getting people to buy an electric vehicle. So they focused on style and design and of course their luxury brand name. " That luxury is key for BMW- because rather than target buyers of mainstream electric cars- who don't want to pay up for electric- BMW says it wants to emulate Tesla- which is selling about 20,000 of its $70,000 electric sports cars a year. REPORTER BRIDGE: BOBBI REBELL, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Tesla is very important for us as a competitor but as well as an example that electric mobility will be important in the future. " Sales of electric and plug in cars more than doubled during the first half of the year- but they still represent less than one percent of overall U.S auto sales according to hybridcars.com. BMW's i3 will be out in November and will start at $41,350- plus a few thousand more for an optional range extender. That's a small premium that Bill Visnic from Edmunds.com thinks will appeal to the luxury minded buyer with a mainstream budget: SOUNDBITE: BILL VISNIC, SENIOR EDITOR, EDMUNDS.COM (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If you are going to try to convince someone in the US to buy an electric car and it needs to have certain attributes that those buyers think line up with the price that they are paying- I'd much rather be a BMW trying to make that proposition than maybe a Ford or a Toyota or a mainstream sort of a car company." He adds that BMW's well established network of dealerships and its offer to lend buyers SUV's when they need to take long trips- could also appeal to buyers considering a Tesla. And for those who do want a sports car- BMW will release the i8 early next year.