BMW India has launched the i8 hybrid sports car in Mumbai at list price of INR 2.2 crore (USD 0.36 million), or about INR 2.7 crore after tax.
The BMW i8, a stunning 2+2 two-door all-wheel drive hybrid sports coupe, is available at dealerships in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. It is the clearest sign yet that BMW India is raising its profile to go for quality before quantity. It has left Audi and Mercedes-Benz to scrap over the market share of entry-level luxury cars in the country (price bracket of INR 2.5 to 5 million) and has turned its attention on the high-end models.
“There is no pressure from the headquarters on the volumes; they want us to grow sustainably and profitably. The 1 Series and the X1 are part of our portfolio, but our focus will be on cars upwards of 3 Series and 5 Series,” BMW India President Phillip von Sahr said.
“There are 15 cars lined up (for launch) during the year and the i8 is first one of them; there are more sports cars and premium cars lined up during the year.”
The i8 will have no direct competitor but price-wise will rival the Audi R8, Porsche 911 and Jaguar F Type. BMW India has thoroughly invested in promotion and advertisements of the i8 to reach as many potential customers as possible.
The poster-boy for the launch was cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, who described driving the i8 as a “flamboyant” experience. Many other celebrities attended the event and heaped praise on the car and BMW’s vision. The event was streamed online and since the launch, i8 advertisements are all over the television.
The i8 is one of the high-end BMW models imported ready-built to India, together with the 6-Series, M Series models and Z4. Other models are assembled locally in Chennai with CKD kits imported from other countries. BMW has also tied up with several local parts suppliers to reduce assembly costs.
First showcased at India’s 2014 Auto Expo, the i8 is the first mid-engined hybrid sports car to be launched in India. The i8 is a plug-in hybrid, which means that it combines a petrol engine with an electric motor. The car can be driven in three modes: Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro. The petrol engine is a special 1.5-litre TwinPower Turbo 3-cylinder unit that produces 228 hp transmitted to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. Between the front wheels is the 128 hp electric motor driving them through a two-speed automatic transmission.
In Sport mode, these motors work in unison and the i8 produces 356 hp, enabling it to reach 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds and achieve a top speed of 250 km/h.
BMW claims i8 has an economy of 47.45 km/l. In the pure electric mode, the car claims a range of 35 km at a top speed of 120 km/h before the petrol engine automatically kicks in. The batteries can be fully charged in 2.5 hours with a 220V plug-in or with a self-generator located close to the petrol engine. For its fuel efficiency, the i8 was named the “Luxury Green Car of the Year 2015” by Green Car Journal.
The i8 may look “brassy” at the first but every single curve is designed to make it more aerodynamic. The front grille is sporty, the butterly doors look elegant and the rear features a black “framed” section that extends over the roof and converges into a V-shape on the bonnet. The LED lights are another striking feature. The headlights add to the look and it’s interesting to note that the taillamps are U-shaped to reduce drag at high speed.
With use of lightweight material like aluminium, composite carbon fibre and polycarbonate glass, it only weighs 1485 kilograms. The passenger cell in entirely made of carbon fibre and the lithium-ion batteries are under the body. As a result, the car hugs the ground with a 50:50 weight distribution for great handling and maneuverability.
The launch of the i8 gels with BMW India’s changing business strategy since the start of 2013.
BMW India don’t share details of their sales citing anti-trust laws, but they have said to have gone down from 9375 units in 2012 to about 6500 units in 2014. However, their profits in the fiscal year of 2014 increased 10 times to INR 107 crore. This indicates that their strategy is working.
The i8 is a statement car and it’s taking Indian automobile industry to the future. And BMW India will always be credited for it. At the end of last year, BMW India launched the M3, M4 Coupe and M5. Now, with the entry of i8, BMW India has set a benchmark for innovation in the luxury car category.
Nonetheless, it’s not clear how people will buy the i8. The car carries an astonishing price tag and the hybrid car market is in its “nascent stage” in India, which is also the reason why the i3 was showcased but not launched along with the i8 last week.