Sales of BMW electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are up more than 49% year over year in 2018. In a recent press release, BMW board member Peter Nota said, “We are delighted to announce that there are now over a quarter of a million electrified BMW Group vehicles on the world’s roads. Combined sales of BMW i, BMW iPerformance, and MINI Electric vehicles were up 52% in April (9,831), bringing the total number of electrified BMW Group cars sold to over 250,000. We are well on track to deliver on our stated target to sell over 140,000 electrified vehicles this year.
While other German manufacturers are touting what their EV sales will be in coming years, BMW is actually putting a significant number of electrified vehicles into the hands of drivers today. It stumbled a bit out of the gate, as sales of its innovative i3 sedan never really caught fire, but it has adapted to the rapid changes in the marketplace (mostly driven by Tesla) to offer products that appeal to today’s car buyers. Purists will argue the Bavarian brand should have more pure electric cars in its product mix, but sales success that matches its customer base is still a vital component of staying in business. BMW has charted a way forward that works for it.
BMW’s EV sales are up nicely so far this year in the US — 73% — and in the UK — 25% — but have absolutely surged in China. Sales there are up 646%, thanks largely to a new, locally produced plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) version of the 5 Series sedan.
In April, electrified vehicles accounted for 5% of BMW sales globally, but that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. Led by the 5 Series PHEV and the X5 PHEV, BMW’s electrified vehicles accounted for more than 7% of its US sales. In the UK, that number was 9%. In Scandinavia, it was 25%. And in Malaysia, it was more than 50%.
Thanks to sales of all those electrified vehicles, the company delivered more cars in the first quarter of 2018 than at any time in its history — 684,724 — a 2.5% increase over 2017. That suggests BMW is doing what it needs to do to grow its business while contributing (somewhat) to the green car revolution. When BMW owners start plugging in their cars at night, it’s a sure sign people have begun to lose their fear of electric cars. They will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and that is how revolutionary change takes place. It may seem slow and gradual at first, but then it picks up steam by word of mouth and other exposure.
BMW’s electrified vehicles have been some of the biggest climbers in the US market this year. Toyota Prius Prime sales are up considerably, but other than the Tesla Model 3’s quick rise to the top, BMW’s electrified car sales growth is the biggest story on the US EV market. The Chevy Volt, Nissan LEAF, and Ford Energi models have actually lost sales, while the Chevy Bolt has seen only very moderate growth.
In Europe, BMW is actually the top-selling brand in the plug-in vehicle market. It has 16% of the market, while Volkswagen has 13%, Renault & Nissan each have 10%, and Tesla sits at about 7%.
In China, foreign automakers have essentially no hope of competing with the local giants, but they can still earn many of their global EV sales there. The plug-in hybrid version of the BMW X1, for example, was the 18th best selling EV in China in March, but that still meant 854 real-world deliveries.