BMW iX3 "not suited" for the US market, may not go on sale there

BMW’s plans to introduce its first electric SUV, the iX3, into the US market have been put on hold. According to Automotive News, a spokesman said BMW has “no plans to bring the iX3 to the US market,” but declined to elaborate on the reasons for the decision. The iX3 was supposed to be launched in the first half of 2021.

The newswire said Americans remain half-hearted when it comes to embracing electric vehicles, which goes against their proclamations of interest in EVs. In fact, the only real company that’s gaining some traction in the US EV market is Tesla.

There’s also another potential problem with the iX3 – there’s no EPA estimate of the iX3’s total driving range. Unless the vehicle has a range of at least 300 miles (482 km), “it’s not worth bringing to the table,” said one retailer who asked not to be identified.

Currently, the electric SUV is said to get a 74 kWh battery, which provides over 440 km of driving range based on WLTP test cycle. “The BMW iX3 isn’t going to cut it in the US market,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Navigant Research. “To be competitive, you really want to have closer to at least 240 to 250 miles of EPA range. Anything less than that and I think you’re going to be struggling in the marketplace,” he added.

Another purported hurdle for the iX3 is the fact that BMW plans to launch it only with rear-wheel drive, in a market where buyers prefer the flexibility of all-while drive. AutoForecast Solutions vice president, Sam Fiorani said the iX3 is not made for the US market, but is tailored instead for the China market, where extended range is not a customer priority.

“Why push a vehicle with limited appeal into North America only to come up short next to a Tesla Model Y or Ford Mustang Mach-E?” Fiorani said. He believes BMW will have a more competitive chance for a US iX3 when it develops the next-generation X3 platform. “With better batteries and all-wheel drive, the next generation would make a proper entry into this very competitive segment.”

Besides the iX3, which is made by joint venture BMW Brilliance Automotive in Shenyang, China, BMW also plans to introduce the iNext SUV in mid-2021, followed by the i4 sedan. Both electric models boast a driving range of over 370 miles (595 km; based on European emissions test cycle). “With the two longer-range models coming, we don’t need the limited range, rear-wheel drive iX3 right now,” another dealer said.

With this, BMW, like its German rival Mercedes-Benz, are rethinking their EV strategies in the US by diverting supplies to other markets which are more receptive of the tech. Last month, Mercedes told dealers that it would delay the US launch of its EQC electric SUV by at least a year, pushing it to 2021. This, apparently, can be offset by the strong demand for the EQC in Europe.

Daimler CEO Ola Källenius told reporters at the CES in January: “We had to make a little bit of a tough choice. Demand [from Europe] by far outstrips supply, even though we are ramping up and adding additional battery lines to the production.” German automakers are under increasing regulatory pressures to cut their fleet CO2 emissions to an average 95 grammes per km, or risk being slapped with hefty fines.

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