BMW will not renew the i3, its flagship electric car, spelling the end of one of the most distinctive vehicles on the road.
The German carmaker will focus instead on installing battery and plug-in technology on its other models, while also planning new pure-electric cars.
“There’s no specific plan for an i3 successor,” Pieter Nota, BMW’s sales and marketing chief, told the Financial Times. “We are now bringing electrification more to the mainstream.”
However, he added that the company would continue to build the i3.
Released in 2013, the car was BMW’s first serious foray into battery vehicles, intended to test the public’s appetite for electric cars without tarnishing its mainstream line-up of swish saloons.
Carmakers typically renew their models after seven years of sales to revitalise demand and fit the latest technology, so under normal conditions the i3 would have only a year left to run.
However, the company said it would continue selling it for several more years.
“It’s not a normal car in that sense,” Mr Nota said.
Carmakers are embracing electric technology wholesale to reduce CO2 emissions and hit sales targets in Europe and China.
BMW is installing plug-in hybrid technology into its best-selling models, which allows them to drive using electric power in cities and conventionally on longer journeys.
The carmaker also plans 13 battery-only models by 2023, a timeframe that was recently brought forward because of impending emissions targets.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show last week the company unveiled the design for an electric car coming out in 2021, as well as showing the electric Mini that will go on sale next year.
Currently in its fifth iteration, BMW has sold more than 150,000 i3 cars to date, with higher demand every year, as the nascent market for electric vehicles blossomed.
Sales in the first half of this year rose by 21 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier.
“The i3 is actually doing extremely well in its sixth year of production already,” said Mr Nota.
Sales in August were 30 per cent higher than a year earlier, which is “remarkable” growth for such a comparatively old vehicle, he added.
When released it was designed to serve as a trailblazer for future technologies, from its battery drive systems and sustainable materials to the stripped-back interior, drawing both praise and criticism.
But the i3 was always an outlier for BMW, bearing little resemblance to its line-up of saloons or sports utility vehicles and appealing to a different demographic.
BMW’s new chief executive Oliver Zipse is under pressure to accelerate the carmaker’s push into electric vehicles.
His predecessor Harald Krueger was perceived as having slowed the rollout of electric technology into BMW’s main models, such as the 3-series, to take on the growing threat from Tesla.