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The German automaker will focus next year on starting production for its i-Series according to a statement by Dr. BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer.
BMW is turning to Brilliance Jinbei Automobile, an already-established Chinese partner, to work their way around new legislation aimed at promoting Chinese cars.
Ian Robertson, director of sales and marketing for BMW told Automotive News Europe said the new brand, which will exist solely to sell electric vehicles in China, will only use limited BMW technology. That decision is in contrast to the i3 and i8 cars BMW plans to release in other markets, including the North America and Europe.
This isn’t the first time BMW and Brilliance have worked together to market a vehicle in China. Last April we reported a story on a 5-series plug-in hybrid meant for Chinese markets that the companies worked together on.
This may look like a BMW 7-Series sedan with some oddball rims, but our spy photographers report that the vehicle in question is actually a prototype for a new BMW i sedan, based on a couple key points.
For starters, there are apparently electric motors mounted in the wheel hubs, which would suggest a new kind of electric propulsion system previously unseen on a BMW. Furthermore, the front and rear fenders look like they’ve been radically altered to fit the vehicle, which further suggests some alien technology lurking underneath the sheetmetal.
If we had to guess, we’d say that BMW is preparing something to bring the fight to the Tesla Model S and Fisker Karma, but there’s very little information to go on at this time.
GALLERY: BMW i Large Sedan
Damon Lavrinc of Autoblog had the chance to sit down with Albert Biermann, Head of Product Development for BMW‘s M Division, and was able to glean some information on future product that should put to bed some of the many rumors floating around about BMW’s skunk works.
First up, the upcoming 2013 BMW M5 will be available with a 6-speed manual. The previous M5 debuted with a 7-speed SMG gearbox, and the resulting outcry forced BMW to backtrack and offer a proper stick after launch. Not so for the new car, which will have the option of either a stick or a dual-clutch gearbox. What won’t be offered is all-wheel drive (due to the sophistication of the M5′s electronic rear differential) and a wagon (BMW sold just over 1,000 M5 wagons world wide last time around, and can’t justify the investment like Cadillac can with the CTS-V wagon).
BMW also won’t be offering an M version of the Z4 for similar reasons, but don’t be surprised to see an M version of one of BMW’s EVs, with Biermann stating “There will be a day when we will not only tweak combustion engines, but electric motors. But we have to continue to provide the M experience.” Biermann also discussed the popular topic of weight reduction, stating that his goal is to have the new model match the outgoing models’ weight, and that due to increasing complexity and vehicle content, weight reduction isn’t always possible.
BMW’s in-development electric car, the i3 has been confirmed as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with a mid-mounted electric motor. It is expected to be for sale by 2013.
Its motor support platform was developed in house and made mostly of carbon fiber. The motor will be positioned ahead of the rear wheels, and the serviceable battery pack will be below the trunk.
Before the i3, BMW will be show a version of its all-electric drivetrain in the ActiveE 1 Series, scheduled to debut later this month at the New York Auto Show.
The more familiar-looking 1 Series model will have a different battery configuration. It will reside between the passenger compartment and trunk. Its cells will not be grouped together, as they are for the i3. BMW said it will announce ActiveE price and a leasing plan details at New York.
With the positive reception given to the very compact MINI Rocketman concept at this year’s Geneva Auto Show, MINI execs have given indications that the car will be produced sometime in the near future.
“We are good at looking at history and interpreting a future for it,” MINI sales and marketing chief Kevin Robertson told Autocar, noting that most MINIs end up making it from concept to production. While the Rocketman is supposed to provide visual cues as to MINI’s future styling direction, the underlying technology behind the Rocketman will also play a significant role in the brand’s future.
“The themes in the car are not just about a smaller Mini,” said Robertson. “Lightweight construction, and new types of components will go on to Minis. The BMW i-concept will be available to all members of the group.”
But with MINI USA head Jim McDowell telling AutoGuide that no larger or smaller MINIs were slated for America outside of the current lineup, it’s possible that we won’t see the Rocketman on our roads at all.
BMW has confirmed that it will launch a new sub-brand of fuel efficient vehicles under the ‘i’ badge. Representing the greener side of the automaker’s portfolio, the i branded vehicles will focus on “sustainable vehicles and mobility solutions.”
Set to hit the market in 2013, the first two models in the i lineup will be the i3 and i8. The i3 (an indication that this will be the projected volume model) will be the production version of the BMW MegaCity, which will use an entirely carbon fiber chassis. As for the i8, it is expected to be the production version of the Efficient Dynamics Concept car and use hybrid technology to achieve incredible performance.
Expect more from BMW on the i brand at the Geneva Auto Show. Until then, check out more of the teasers below.