BMW sold 16,000 all electric i3 models in 2014 but only 2,100 in Germany

BMW sold 16,000 all electric i3 models in 2014 but only 2,100 in Germany

Retiring BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer launched an attack on the German government's lack of support for battery electric vehicles at the group's annual accounts press conference in Munich today (18 March).

BMW sold 16,000 all electric i3 models in 2014, becoming the third largest manufacturer in the segment in its first full year of operations, but only 2,100 buyers were in Germany. That's the same as in Norway, a country with a much smaller population but one which gives extensive support to EVs [the Nissan Leaf is a top seller there and the automaker staged the launch of the UK built models for Europe in Oslo - ed], and less than the total for California alone in the US.

"What these figures clearly show is that a constructive political framework truly makes a difference in a market," said Reithofer.

"The German car manufacturers have delivered their part of the bargain. The ball is now in the court of policymakers, especially here in Germany... we need a serious debate about the right tools to ensure Germany picks up the pace when it comes to electric mobility."

Reithofer cited the examples of Norway, where EVs charge and park for free and are exempt from VAT and registration tax [and can use dedicated road lanes in city centres]; California, where there are financial incentives and EVs can use carpool lanes even when travelling one-up; and Shanghai, where the i3 saves owners the equivalent of EUR10,000 (US$10,600; GBP7,160) because it is not subject to the city's restrictive licence plate limitations.

"In Norway the cars are being incentivised and the infrastructure is good," said Reithofer.

"Those are the two factors why BMW is selling 22% of its volume there as an e-car but in Germany it is at less than 1%. That is still 2,000 cars, but in Germany there is almost no market for electric cars.

"We never said that as an industry we need the government to provide subsidies for five or 10 years but we just want some incentives to get things running."

BMW sales and marketing head Ian Robertson said i3 production is running at around 2,000 units a month so far in 2015 which would be a 50% increase on last year if maintained.

"Customers so far have been mainly private buyers," he said. "In those markets where sales are strong - California, Norway and the UK - they are motivated by personal tax benefit or, as in Oslo, where they can drive in bus lanes as individuals. This can take 45 minutes off typical journey times.

"But we are adding it to our DriveNow programme (the on-demand car-hire schemes being run with civic authorities in a number of cities) and we are seeing several other authorities interested in adding the car."