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BMW sees no rival in Tesla Model S as it preps plug-in supercar

FRANKFURT, Aug 18 — Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s rechargeable i8 sports car is entering a soon-to-be-crowded field of supercars with a hint of green. While they tap into Tesla Motors Inc.’s popularity, they’re for different buyers.

“This is the supercar of the future: It has the driving performance of an M3, but gets more than 80 miles per gallon,” Ludwig Willisch, BMW’s North American chief executive officer, said August 15 in an interview in Pebble Beach, California. Relative to Tesla’s Model S, the i8 is “a whole different animal — it competes with different concepts.”

The early success of Model S, with about 10,000 North American deliveries in the first half, is signalling there’s a market for premium rechargeable autos. BMW, Volkswagen AG’s Porsche and General Motors Co.’s Cadillac are all readying plug-in premium cars that could pull sales from Tesla. And Honda Motor Co.’s Acura NSX will be a made-in-America hybrid.

BMW will show a production version of the plug-in hybrid i8 coupe at the Frankfurt auto show next month that’s to go on sale in the US in early 2014. Pricing, also to be announced next month, will be less than US$150,000 (RM450,000), Willisch said. Model S starts at about US$70,000.

While Model S is propelled solely by lithium-ion battery power, BMW’s carbon fibre and aluminium i8 uses electric power for the front wheels and a three-cylinder gasoline engine for the rear tires. The system delivers a combined 362 horsepower to speed the car from 0 to 62 miles (100 kilometres) per hour in just 4.5 seconds, while delivering an average of 94 miles per gallon, BMW said.

Sneak peek

Willisch declined to provide a US sales target for the i8 or the lower-priced i3 electric car that also goes on sale early next year. Reporters got a sneak peek at the i8 on August 15, when cameras and phones weren’t permitted.

Tesla declined to comment specifically about the i8.
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