BMW i3 and i8 interest exceeds production capacity says CEO

BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer has revealed that both the electric i3 and plug-in hybrid i8 models are oversubscribed, with demand exceeding current production capacity.

Reithofer confirmed to Auto Motor und Sport that after 11,000 pre-orders and 100,000 test drive requests for the progressive i3 hatchback the German automaker has more interest than it can deliver on. The same is true for the $135,700 carbon fiber i8 sportscar.

“Our dealers tell us that they could sell all the cars we’re currently building immediately,” Reithofer said. “The first deliveries of the i8 take place in June. At the moment we have more customer queries than we can deliver based on the current production capacity – that applies to i8 and i3.”

Six-month waiting lists for the i3 and, consequentially, accusations of profiteering by US BMW dealerships were originally thought to stem from a bottleneck in the supply of the carbon fiber that both cars use extensively. The incredibly strong but lightweight material takes time to manufacture at SGL Carbon’s $100 million hydroelectric plant at Moses Lake, Washington.

However, a recent order placed by BMW for two additional multi-axis robot-equipped Engel injection moulding machines at its Leipzig plant suggests that limitations of the wind-powered production lines were also a factor in the delays.

To cater for increased demand, BMW recently raised production rates by 43 percent from 70 vehicles each day to 100. With more than 5,000 examples of the i3 already built, the company hopes that order backlogs can now be worked through as quickly as possible. The increase will raise annual output to around 20,000 vehicles – double BMW’s original target.