BMW confirms production of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car will end next month, nearly six years after it was introduced in a big way to the German automaker’s lineup.
BMW’s Leipzig plant in Germany will cease production of the Porsche 911 rival in mid-April, following a decision to focus engineering activities on developing a new range of electric models, including the iX3 CUV, i4 sedan and iNext SUV. An electric sports car based on last year’s Vision M Next concept is also due within the next five years.
The first model to join BMW’s i sub-brand has tallied more than 20,000 sales worldwide since it went on sale in coupe guise in 2014 before being facelifted in 2018 – at which time the open-top i8 roadster model was added to the lineup. That includes 6,776 deliveries in the U.S., according to Wards Intelligence data.
Initially revealed as a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show, the i8 went on sale in 2014 as the high-performance flagship of BMW’s then-new i division, positioned in the lineup above the i3 hatchback.
In its six years on sale, the i8 has served as a figurehead for a growing range of plug-in hybrid BMW models, as well as pioneering carbon-fiber construction processes subsequently integrated into parts of other, more conventional BMW models, including the Carbon Core body structure of the latest 7-Series.
The futuristic-looking sports car has been sold with just one powertrain option throughout its production run: a mid-mounted turbocharged 1.5L gasoline 3-cyl. mated to a front-mounted electric motor. Performance figures have remained largely unchanged, although the 2018 refresh boosted output from 357 hp to 369 hp.
In a statement, BMW says i8 production will cease at the end of a limited 200-unit run of Ultimate Sophisto Edition models. Exact production figures have not been released, although BMW confirms the 20,000th copy of the i8 was produced in December as part of Ultimate Sophisto Edition production.
This places it well ahead of previous BMW sports cars in terms of production numbers; production of the M1, launched in 1978, reached 399 units, while production of the Z8, introduced in 2000, was limited to 5,000 units.
Sales of the i8 in the U.S. totaled 555 in 2014; 2,265 in 2015; 1,594 in 2016; 488 in 2017; 772 in 2018; 1,102 in 2019; and 122 through the first two months of 2020, Wards Intelligence data show.
BMW insiders have told Wards a final decision on what direction an i8 successor could take has not yet been made, though they hint it could be reborn as an electric rival to the second-generation Tesla Roadster and a battery-electric successor to the Audi R8.
They also suggest BMW is pursuing a race-to-road strategy for future electrified sports cars, with the goal of providing a link between the automaker’s involvement in Formula E racing and future production i-division road cars.