Get ready for an i8 M Sport and i3 M Sport.
If rumblings under the San Andreas fault are supposed to indicate that we’ll have to kiss the west coast goodbye, then what do seismic leaps and bounds being made at BMW’s i moniker mean? For now, they mean that no BMW supercar to rival the Mercedes AMG GT will be made and that we can expect every model in the company’s lineup to have the option for a plug by 2020. But as VP of Sales and Marketing for BMW’s M division Peter Quintus told Motoring, the fault lines go deeper than that.
In a previous interview about the possibility of a BMW supercar, the company’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Dr. Ian Robertson claimed that the M division was too busy building up its M Sport portfolio since this is the sector that sells in higher volumes and in turn makes more money. However, thanks to comments made by Quintus, we now know just what the i division is so busy with. That would be M Sport versions of the i8 and i3, which will serve as a stepping stone into an eventual electrification of the M brand when BMW’s two brands merge. When Motoring pressed him about a full M version of the i8 or a collaboration on a car between M and i, Quintus said that it is the long term strategy.
Still, that doesn't mean BMW is ready for it quite yet. “In the longer-term there must be some kind of electrification of the M range. The question is, when do you do that?” said Quintus. “At the moment, if you look at the weight of batteries against the performance gains of electrification, it’s obvious the best blend of performance and dynamic technologies are still achieved by conventionally-powered models.” Put simply, the main impediment is the weight of the batteries, which could be mitigated by integrating carbon fiber into the chassis of a battery powered M car. The one issue is that mass production of carbon fiber chassis is still expensive, meaning that in the near future we’ll have to settle for BMW’s carbon core technology seen on the 7 Series.
What this does is to use a mix of carbon fiber, aluminum, and steel to reduce weight in key areas while saving cost over a full carbon body. The i brand has an easier time with such a transition given how new it is, but the changes will drastically alter how the M brand has done things for years. We are still years away from feeling the aftershocks of these tectonic shifts in the auto world, but just because the hand of change is inevitable doesn’t always mean its touch will be pleasant.