While BMW has once again posted a record sales year, the German market has been less welcoming for the new BMW i3 electric vehicles. Only 2,128 BMW i3’s found their home in Germany through November 2014 which is significantly less than rumored 5,000 units sales target imposed by from the Munich HQ.
Since I have spent some time in Germany lately, I “looked” around to identify some of the reasons why the i3 sales fell short of expectations. In the end I came up with five reasonable reasons why BMW i3 is yet to be a success in the local market.
For the most part, the findings are not backed by statistical figures, analytics or other data, and they are rather based on common sense. You will see that Europeans have a different way of doing things and how they perceive electric cars compared to the U.S. counterparts for example.
- Public Transportation
BMW has always touted the BMW i3 as the perfect city car: attractive, lightweight, fast, low fuel consumption and small, so it can be parked anywhere. The problem is that transportation in Germany and Europe works different and arguably better than in other countries/continents.
In my opinion, a significant obstacle in the way of adopting electric cars is the ultra-efficient German public transport system. If you live, for example, in BMW’s hometown Munich getting around in a car for anything but pleasure is a nuisance of epic proportions. Half the time, this magnificent city is locked in a serious traffic jam that literally grinds to a halt many times during the day.
The smart alternative is to jump on the highly efficient U-Bahn or S-Bahn system which blitzes you around the city in mere minutes. The same travel in terms of distance can take up to 1-2 hours in a car, compared to just 15-20min on a train.
Add the cost of parking, lack of parking and generally, driving a car during several staus, and you will understand why driving is a daunting challenge. Not even an electric vehicle can fix all these issues.
Yes, Germany is considered one of the most advanced countries in green technology and solar power, which profoundly implemented in everyday lives. But, on the other hand, the mere fact that most residents of Munich wont have the means to charge them efficiently still remains. Unlike the United States, urbanization in German cities has not yet pushed the wealthier demographic groups to the suburbs and most still remain in the city center, riddled with logistical issues for owning an electric car like this.
While this subject touches on the public transportation topic, it also relays the important factor of cost savings over owning a new car.
If you live in Munich and your residential area is located inside the U-Bahn zones, you will pay 97.00€ for a monthly ticket, granting you access to the entire network with completely unlimited travel time, travel distance and usage of the entire subway system there. The usual trip from the city center in Munich to the farthest station on the subway system is around 30min every day, when things are running regularly over there. No parking fares and no sitting in traffic, at all. It’s efficient, easy to use and cost friendly too. The public transportation system also runs throughout the day and night with only a short 4 hours break in the middle of the night, where the network is inspected, cleaned and maintained.
On the other hand, a lease for a BMW i3 runs approximately 500€ for a 36 month lease with a hefty down payment. With the BMW i3 designed as a second car or a city car, the price tag you need to cough up for one doesn’t warranty the expense for some people.
- Alternative models
While it hasn’t seen spectacular sales figures, the Tesla Model S is providing German car owners with a viable alternative to petrol-powered cars sold in Germany. Some say these are priced the same as for example a BMW 530i and a BMW i3 together, with Tesla Model S pretty much serving the same purpose as these two.
The extended range of the Tesla Model S makes it a perfect vehicle, especially with the introduction of the Superchargers in various parts of the country allowing for a quick and easy charge.
- Overall Appeal
Sticks and stones will be thrown for sure. The BMW i3 doesn’t quite have the appeal to German buyers as it does to Americans, especially to those in California. With lots of green areas, efficient public transportation and tons of forests, the need of an electric drive to save the environment takes a second place, or even lower on the reasons why to buy an EV.
BMW i3 is appealing to the younger and more techno friendly group of potential customers. In Germany, the general feeling towards cars in general is a mixed one. Unlike the United States, where a car is a necessity, in Germany it is not.