BMW unveils i sub-brand for sustainable vehicles

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Indy Lifestyle Online

BMW has unveiled a new sub-brand, i, that is to be used for the company's sustainable vehicles and mobility solutions. The first cars to which i will be applied are the i3, a development of the company's plug-in Megacity concept electric vehicle, and the i8, a plug-in hybrid based on the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics design study.

Several manufacturers are developing so-called mobility solutions as a complement to their electric vehicle programmes; for example, Peugeot's mu programme provides users with occasional access to larger vehicles for journeys for which electric cars are unsuited. BMW is particularly interested in technologies and services in areas such as improved usage of existing parking spaces, navigation systems with local information, intermodal route planning, and premium car-sharing. The company has also set up a venture capital company, BMW i Ventures, in order to invest in relevant partner companies. The first such investment is in My City Way, a mobile app that provides users with information on public transport, parking availability, and local entertainment in over 40 US cities, although the coverage of the service will be expanded.

The the new sub-brand reinvents the use of the character i for BMW model designations; previously it was used to denote a petrol-engined car with fuel injection – for example 520i as opposed to 520 – and it is still used in this way, although strictly speaking it is superfluous since fuel injection became universal.

The introduction of i as a sub-brand also raises the question of whether BMW might be clouding its message a bit. As well as its famous strapline “Freude am Fahren” (which can roughly be translated as “the joy of driving”), it already has one eco-oriented sub-brand, EfficientDynamics, designed to convey the notion that its cars retain their dynamic prowess despite the adoption of measures designed to improve fuel economy and emissions, and MINI for smaller urban cars. That said, as long as the i cars have a BMW badge as well, they're still likely to find plenty of buyers.

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