Five Reasons Why the BMW i3 Should Be Sold at MINI

By · July 24, 2013

BMW i3

In five short days, BMW will officially launch its i3 electric car at three simultaneous events in London, Beijing and New York. The first BMW electric car to be sold or leased—the previous BMW electric test platforms were only leased—the i3 will feature a powerful 125 kilowatt electric motor, a 7-second sprint from zero to 60 miles per hour, BMW luxury, and seating for four.

The BMW i3 is the first of the company's i-branded electric cars to go on sale, the first in a whole lineup of plug-in cars which will form the i sub-brand.  But will the subcompact i3 city car be out of place in a BMW showroom? Should it be sold instead at MINI dealerships?

Here are five reasons why the i3 should be a MINI:

1The BMW i3 Is spiritually a MINI at heart.

It might be built with the rear-wheel drivetrain that’s been a feature of BMW cars for longer than we can remember, but the BMW i3 is physically and spiritually closer to the MINI than any of BMW’s past or current cars.

At 151 inches in length, the 2014 BMW i3 is marginally larger than the 2013 MINI Cooper S, but boasts a similar power-to-weight ratio and 0-60 time as its track-inspired cousin.  And with seating for four instead of five, the BMW i3 matches the MINI’s passenger and luggage-carrying abilities too.

2MINI is known for fun, economical city cars.

With a average fuel economy across its range far higher than the U.S. average fuel economy, MINI has made a name for itself as a brand that produces sporty and fun yet economical city cars.

BMW, meanwhile, is known for its large executive sedans and SUVs, most of which are at home in the suburbs and open road, rather than the urban jungle. As a consequence, it’s more likely that MINI customers, rather than BMW drivers, would make the switch to the i3.

3MINI dealers are in the right places.

Take a look at the MINI dealer locator, and it quickly becomes apparent that MINI dealerships are concentrated in major cities, with the majority of dealerships located in and around California, the east coast, and Chicago.

That’s hardly surprising: the MINI is best suited to life in the city or suburbs rather than America’s heartland. Since the key market areas for the MINI brand are also the key market areas for electric cars, it makes sense to pair them up.

4MINI drivers are the right demographic for the i3.

Beyond geography, MINI dealers cater to the right demographic: younger people with no kids who want high-tech, funky, frugal motoring options; and older drivers with grown up children or access to another vehicle who want a fun, luxurious city car as a second vehicle.

5MINI represents a willingness to stand out from the crowd.

With its iconic design and classic racing-inspired looks, the MINI stands out from the crowd, letting the world know that its owner is an outgoing, fun-loving person who doesn’t mind being different.

With its futuristic appearance, all-electric drivetrain and minimalist interior design, the BMW i3 isn’t your parent’s 5-series. Instead, it stands out from the crowd, shouts its eco-credentials, and basks in the light of its different-ness.

Coming up with these arguments for the i3 as MINI is a fun exercise in armchair-quarterbacking, but there's absolutely no evidence that the i3 will be stocked and sold anywhere else other than BMW dealerships, when it goes on sale in the second quarter of 2014. The looming questions are how successful BMW dealerships will be in selling the i3 to its existing customer base or bringing in folks who are more inclined to own a MINI or another brand. And what effect (if any) that the introduction of the all-electric i3 city car will have on the BMW brand and its e-mobility projects.

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