BMW AG’s board member for manufacturing says he believes the UK will be one of the firm’s largest markets for the i3 and i8 plug-in models.

Series production of the i3 starts next week at Leipzig, where EUR400m has been invested for this model and the i8 to come. Speaking to just-auto at a preview event on the eve of the Frankfurt show press days, Harald Krüger called what has gone on at this plant a “revolution” as “50% less energy and 70% less water will be used in the build process”.

“At Leipzig, there is no welding, no press shop or paint shop (panels come pre-coloured), and the body shop is small as there are only a third as many parts as a steel vehicle – the i3 is mostly carbon fibre,” Krüger explains. “That also means fewer robots but more humans as the parts are so light”, he notes.

As for the i8, production won’t start until 2014, Krüger says. This PHEV supercar will run up to a claimed 35km on its batteries, with drive going to the front wheels via an electric motor, with a 1.5-litre petrol engine driving the rear wheels. Production of this turbocharged three-cylinder unit recently got underway at Hams Hall in England.

BMW’s man wouldn’t commit to naming a planned production target for either car – “I am open” [to however many the market will take] is all he would say. When asked to name the major markets, these were listed as “…the UK, the US, China, the Netherlands and Japan”.

Author: Glenn Brooks

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See also: UK/US/CHINA: BMW unveils production model i3; ‘profitable from Day 1’