BMW i Car Engineering Team Decamps For China

Most of the top engineers who developed the BMW i3 and i8 have left the company and joined yet another new Chinese electric car start-up. This one is called Future Mobility Corporation and is backed by Tencent Holdings. Carsten Breitfeld, a 20 year company veteran who was responsible for crafting the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, left BMW last month.

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Breitfeld will become the new CEO of Future Mobility and will be joined by three other senior members of BMW’s i division — Dirk Abendroth, who developed electric powertrains for the i-series; Benoit Jacob, who was head of design at BMW i; and Henrik Wenders, head of BMW i product management.

Their defection comes as BMW struggles to move its i division forward. The i3 was ground breaking when it was first introduced in 2011, but it has remained relatively unchanged since then. The i3 is in line for a larger battery and the i8 reportedly will go topless soon as well, but those developments are small potatoes compared to the blockbuster news coming from Tesla on a regular basis.

Rumors about a third product for the i division are rampant, but senior company officials say whatever it is, it won’t come to market before 2020. “That’s too long for young people who want to change the world,” a person close to the company tells The Wall Street Journal. It is believed Breitfeld and the others simply got bored waiting for the company to figure out where it wants to go next with the i division.

Sales of the i3 and i8 totaled almost 30,000 cars last year. That’s less than the number of Model S sedans Tesla Motors delivered. With Tesla claiming it will be selling 300,000 or more cars annually it the very near future, there is a sense that BMW lacks a clear vision for how it plans to move forward into the electric car future.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.