BMW to Create Sub-Brand For Battery-Powered Cars


FRANKFURT — BMW, the German luxury car builder, said on Monday that it would create a sub-brand known as BMW i to market a line of battery-powered cars starting in 2013, and gave the most complete picture yet of how the vehicles made of carbon fiber and aluminum would look.

Though the introduction of the so-called Megacity vehicle is two years away, the promotional campaign has been under way for at least a year, with BMW executives slowly revealing information about the new line’s design and technology.

The information drip continued Monday with an event in Munich, broadcast on the Web, where the company, formally Bayerische Motoren Werke, showed off crucial details of the body design and the slanted “i” logo that will be used to market the cars.

BMW also said that at least two models, not just one, would be introduced in 2013: a four-seat, battery-powered vehicle intended for urban areas and known as the i3; and a hybrid sports car, the i8, that the company promised would be able to reach nearly 100 kilometers an hour, or 60 miles an hour, in five seconds, while burning no more fuel than a subcompact.

Additional BMW i vehicles will follow, BMW executives said.

“There is room for more products,” said Klaus Dräger, the head of development.

By deciding to label the new cars BMW i, BMW seems confident that they will enhance the image of its core brand — and not damage it by falling flat in a still unproved market for electric vehicles.

The new BMW brand name is not a total surprise. The effort to design and build electric cars, begun in 2007, has been known as Project i. The plug-in cars will retain the kidney-shaped grill design on the front end that is one of the most recognizable elements of a BMW, even though that grill is not needed by a battery-powered vehicle and will have no function.

The cars will also have computers that can be loaded with applications. BMW said that it had formed a venture capital fund to encourage the development of such applications. The fund, BMW i Ventures, already has a stake in MyCityWay, a start-up in New York that offers location-based information, like where to find parking.

BMW hopes to generate additional revenue with services that may also be sold to people who do not own a car, like high-end car sharing. BMW is betting that there is a market among young, affluent buyers for cars that are sporty and stylish yet guilt-free.

“This group has a keen sense of design and style along with passion for the environment,” said Ian Robertson, the director of sales and marketing.

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