Friday October 22, 2021
i4 goes into series production
BMW attacks with “Tesla Fighter”
Tesla is considered the top dog in the market for electric cars. But the competition never sleeps. With the i4, BMW wants to compete with the industry leader. The Munich-based company is not being slowed down by the current chip crisis.
Three months after the iX electric SUV, BMW has also started series production of the fully electric BMW i4. The first vehicle rolled off the assembly line at the main plant in Munich today. “We are entering exactly the niche that Tesla also serves with its range of products,” said production director Milan Nedeljkovic. The fully electric i4 is rolling off the same line in Munich as the 3 and 4 series with gasoline, diesel and hybrid drives. The main difference between the vehicles is the electric drive and the battery. In the body shop, 90 percent of the existing production facilities are also used for the i4. The 3 Series BMW is the largest volume model in the group.
This year, until the end of September, BMW had sold around 390,000 cars from the 3 series and the 4 series derived from it. With its fully electric Model 3, Tesla is targeting the same buyer groups and has sold around 614,000 of these cars and the Model Y derived from them in the same period. With a “Tesla Fighter”, automakers want to compete with the industry pioneer Tesla in the market for e-cars.
“The start-up of the BMW i4 is a milestone for this plant and its team on the way to e-mobility,” said Nedeljkovic. “From 2023, more than half of all vehicles from Munich will have an electrified drive. Most of them will be fully electric.” He did not give any more precise information about the targeted sales figures for the i4. Because of the shortages in the semiconductor supply, BMW expects to be able to sell almost 80,000 fewer cars this year than demanded. But the i4 enjoys “a certain priority” in the group when it comes to semiconductor supply, emphasized the Munich plant manager Peter Weber.
So far, around 7,000 employees in Munich have built around 1,000 3 and 4-series cars and 2,000 petrol and diesel engines every day. But at the end of the year production of the four-cylinder engines was relocated to Hams-Hall in England and Steyr in Austria. The number of employees in engine construction in Munich has already fallen by 400 to 1000. The relocation of the Munich engine construction should be completed by 2024 at the latest.
“We managed to integrate the vehicle into our existing production system while production was still going on,” said Plant Manager Weber. The renovation cost 200 million euros. “We will invest another 400 million in order to be able to produce the ‘New Class’ here in the mid-1920s,” said Nedeljkovic.
The next generation of vehicles, the “New Class”, is geared towards electric drives. The construction of these vehicles with a new platform, new batteries and new software is to start in the planned BMW plant in Hungary in 2025 and then be rolled out to all plants and model classes.
In 2030, BMW plans to sell around three million cars, half of them fully electric. The discontinuation of the electrical pioneer i3, which has been built in Leipzig since 2012, “is not an issue for us,” said the production director, referring to the continued good demand. With regard to the body shop at Tesla, Nedeljkovic said: “We don’t go into such large aluminum parts.” When it comes to the body, high strength, minimal weight and a good price are decisive for BMW.