BMW has a naming problem with their upcoming electric cars. A decade ago, a strategy was put in place stating that all electric BMWs will be built under the BMW i sub-division. Initially, the product plans called for fully dedicated electric platforms which were first introduced with the i3 and the i8.
The carbon fiber construction of those models has won many awards and is regarded as a true engineering masterpiece. Albeit an expensive one. So years later, a new plan came to life. This time, BMW decided to bet on a flexible architecture which will allow them to build gasoline, diesel, electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the same platform.
But that flexibility also brought a rigidity in the naming convention of their future cars. This year’s BMW iX3 will retain the old nomenclature of electric cars, same as the next generation 7 Series which is likely to be called the i7 or Mi7 (if a performance model is built upon on it).
The BMW i4 was initially supposed to follow the same naming structure with the potential 80 sDrive and i4 80 xDrive badges attached to it. The “80”, or any other number of the same format, was meant to indicate the battery capacity of the electric car.
But plans seem to have once again changed in Munich. According to a report by a source with a good track record, the i4 could now be sold under the i430 and i440 badges. It’s still not clear what the “430” and “440” numbers stand for, but there is one thing for sure: if that naming convention stands true, it will certainly create some marketing confusion between the “i430” electric car and the “430i” 4 Series gasoline-powered model. Same goes for the “i440” and the “440i” models.
We’re still more than a year away from the i4 production, so the marketing plans could go through another iteration. Clearly, this is not an easy task considering the already complicated naming structure of most current BMWs. In the past, the numbers in a BMW badge were an indication of the engine capacity under the hood, but with the ever expanding BMW lineup, that has changed as well.
Personally, we would prefer to see the i4 badge on the new electric car. The i Division is an already established brand and customers are familiar with the meaning of “i” badges. In the end, the customer is not likely to care whether this is a dedicated or a flexible car platform, so a simple and well-known naming convention would make more sense.
There is, of course, the need to differentiate between the different electric variants, but there are plenty of examples in the industry that seem to work well.