That means US i3 customers will have to wait a bit longer than expected. Although BMW has never made an official announcement on when US sales would begin, about four months ago BMW's North American president Ludwig Willisch told the Automotive News that the first batch of i3s arriving in the US would have the range extender option and would arrive in the US late this year, but that significant numbers of them wouldn't be delivered until early 2014.
So somehow late 2013 to early 2014 has been moved to 2nd quarter of 2014. It's only a delay of a few months but it has people wondering what was the cause of the delay. To add to the mystery is the fact that the European launch seems to remain on schedule and is still set for November of this year.
There are a couple possible reasons that I can imagine:
1) BMW is having some last minute manufacturing issues so they will need longer than expected to ramp up to the volume they'll need for the US launch. Everything about the production process for the i3 is different than a conventional car so it wouldn't be surprising to find that they are discovering some manufacturing snafus that will need a little extra time to iron out. This happens with conventional cars so one would imagine BMW will certainly experience issues refining the assembly line for the i3.
2) The range extender isn't ready. BMW expects that as much as 80% of the US i3 orders will have the range extender option. What if it's not ready yet, and will take a few months longer? It's conceivable that they begin sales in Europe without the range extender option available and add it a few months later, right before the car launches in the US. A long shot, but possible. If the range extender is available for order at the European launch then this theory is proven wrong.
3) BMW has experienced a higher than expected interest in reservations in Europe, and won't be able to have an adequate supply for the European launch and still begin US deliveries only two months later. Perhaps they will need a couple of months to get the Leipzig plant up to full capacity and satisfy the initial European demand.
4) There really is no delay. Since BMW really never announced an official release date and the only reference ever made was from the Automotive News story where they interviewed Willisch. If you read the article (link above) you see the part where they talk about when the cars will start arriving in the US they aren't quoting Willisch, so it is possible they just used bad information and Willisch actually didn't tell them the car would launch then. Perhaps Willisch was referring to when i3s with range extenders would arrive in the US to be used for training and marketing purposes and the plan all along was to start selling them a couple of months later.
If I had to put money on it, I'd probably go with dealing with manufacturing issues combined with heavier than planned demand in Europe. Perhaps we'll get some clarity on this at the i3 formal introduction on Monday.
I'll have the press conference streaming live here on this site, so tune in at 8:00am this Monday, July 29th.