BMW’s i3 is a cute little sedan. It’s i8 is a hard edged supercar. Is there room for a model in the middle? There’s a lot of speculation that a mid-size sedan or SUV would make a lot of sense for expansion of the “i” brand, and rumors in that regard are already out there.
But according to Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s head of R&D, his company has just begun “brainstorming” for its third “i” model, and that model won’t arrive until after 2020. He told Automotive News Europe recently that the next “i” model will be unique to the sub-brand, like the i3 and i8, and not based on any existing BMW model. That’s a later timetable than excpected, with some analysts thinking the next BMW i could come as early as 2017.
Froelich went on to say that the mission of the i sub-brand is to change the perception of how a low-emissions car should look and perform and therefore there are no plans to re-package an existing BMW Group model and call it an i model. That seems to quash any idea that the newly introduced BMW X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid SUV is going to morph into the range filling i5 model.
In the meantime, BMW says it will work on improving its i3 and i8 cars. It will also transfer some of the knowledge it has gained from designing and building those two cars to the rest of its production vehicles. Vehicle weight is becoming increasingly important to car makers eager to increase fuel economy and reduce tailpipe emissions in order to meet ever tightening government regulations around the world. The company’s innovative use of carbon fiber technology in the i3 and i8 will most likely lead to more use of carbon fiber components across the entire BMW lineup of automobiles.
Look for carbon fiber to play a big role in the upcoming redesign of BMW’s largest sedan, the 7 Series, due shortly. Experience gained with the plug in powertrain for the i3 and i8 will also figure in to the design of more high volume models like the X5 and the company’s 3 series and 4 series cars.