In June 2022, BMW ended production of the i3 at the Leipzig factory in Germany where a little over 250,000 hatchbacks were produced in nine years. A direct replacement is not currently available as the iX1 and recently unveiled iX2 are not really successors of the quirky hatchback since both are more expensive and larger crossovers. Technically, the i3 is still around but the alphanumeric designation has been repurposed for an electric variant of the long-wheelbase 3 Series Sedan built in China exclusively for the local market.
In an interview with the business newspaper Automobilwoche, the man in charge of development strongly suggested a new model to fill the void left after the i3 hatch’s demise last year is being considered. Frank Weber admitted there is “undoubtedly a need to bring an affordable, compact BMW offering to the market.” He went on to mention the hugely promising Neue Klasse platform is being engineered to cover all segments of the market, including an entry-level EV.
Interestingly, the Chief Technology Officer revealed a future i3 won’t have the quirky design of the oddball hatchback. The CTO admitted that because of its unconventional styling, the small EV was “a bit of an outsider in the school class,” adding BMW doesn’t intend to use the same recipe for a subsequent i3. Logic tells us a replacement would be called either i1 or i2 to reflect its positioning in the lineup, below an already confirmed Neue Klasse-based i3 Sedan.
As to why the original i3 looked the way it did, Frank Weber explained the striking appearance was intentional as BMW wanted to make it stand out from the crop of gasoline and diesel models. The car’s mission was to complement the traditional ICE lineup and show that electromobility is viable. In 2023, there’s no need to have an EV pioneer anymore as the zero-emission lineup already includes many models.
It’s unclear when BMW will launch a true entry-level EV that would undercut the iX1, available in Germany from €47,900. We do know the plan is to roll out six Neue Klasse-based cars from 2025 until 2028, kicking off with an i3 Sedan and the next-gen iX3. We’re hearing an i3 Touring is planned, along with an iX4 as an electric-only replacement for the current X4. Time will tell whether the i1/i2 will be in this first wave of NE-based cars.
Source: Automobilwoche (subscription required)