BMW i3 Buyers Face Long Wait Times for Delivery
The BMW i3 has enjoyed an extended honeymoon period, with gala events around the world celebrating a work in progress. It’s been a long wait, but the car is finally coming our way. Or at least it will be. “From everything I’ve heard so far, we’ll have them to dealers in May,” said Dave Buchko, a BMW advanced powertrain spokesman. “They could arrive before that.”
BMW said in early February that is had taken 11,000 orders for the car, with 1,200 of them being in the U.S. But since the car has been so heavily publicized, demand is likely to outstrip supply for a while. And, in some cases, a long time.
“We’re getting just eight of them initially,” said Jason Gellatly, a client advisor at BMW’s Bridgeport, Connecticut dealership. “We’ve been sold out for a while. If you came to me now, I’d say you’re not getting a car in 2014 and not in 2015, but maybe 2016.”
Wow, 2016! Connecticut is a very EV-friendly state, and there are plenty of consumers with the money (this is hedge fund country) to pay $41,350 (before incentives) for a designer car. Buyers may be patient, but not enough to wait two years—too long a delay and they’ll purchase something else.
Asked about that extra-long wait, Buchko says, “We’d all be thrilled if the demand for the car is that high, but it sounds awfully ambitious to me. We haven’t heard of waits that long, and we wouldn’t want people to get discouraged.”
Jack Nerad, executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book, looks at it this way. "I think there is the real possibility of disgruntling customers if i3s cannot be delivered in a relatively timely manner," he said. "BMW is stuck in a hard place here. It wants to launch in the U.S. while the publicity is flowing in a positive way, but if it can get significant numbers into the market, it risks upsetting customers."
According to some commentators, BMW is giving preference to American i3 customers, and that fact is responsible for the six-month wait in Europe. Maybe so, but it's still unclear how long the U.S. wait will be, even if we are favored.
Test Drive Cars on the Way
Potential i3 owners should check with their dealers about test drives, because BMW is circulating a group of four or five early European production i3s around the U.S. for that purpose. Al Herbst, a senior sales person at Center BMW in Sherman Oaks, near Los Angeles, said he is anticipating those test cars arriving this coming weekend. “It’s going to be a big event,” he said, describing the i3 as “a Jetsons car that is five years ahead of its time.”
Herbst said that a 2016 delivery date is "extreme." He said, "Look, we're the capital of cars here in LA, and people won't have to wait that long."
Herbst counts 27 or 28 i3s ordered, and an initial delivery of 10 cars maybe in one or two months. He doesn’t know how long new customers will have to wait for their cars, but he projects just two or three months. “That’s more than a guess, but part of it is a guess,” he said.
How Many Range Extenders?
Buchko doesn’t want to speculate about the market share for the range-extender REx model. The range extender qualifies for both the $7,500 federal income tax credit and the state’s $2,500 rebate.
The only compromise for range-extender customers is a green sticker for California HOV lanes. The supply of those is limited to 40,000 and approximately 30,000 have already been issued. The white HOV sticker is unlimited, but only the battery-only car gets it.
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