March 16, 2016
Earlier this month, BMW celebrated 100 years of automotive excellence, but the Bavaria-based automaker isn’t resting on its laurels by any means. In fact, BMW today revealed its vision for the second decade of the 21st Century, which will focus predominantly on cutting-edge technologies like electric mobility and autonomous vehicles. The centerpiece of BMW’s ambitious plans is the iNEXT, an electric vehicle model scheduled for release sometime in the early 2020s. Although car buyers will have to wait at least a few more years to own an iNEXT, they will have received a sneak preview of sorts with the BMW i3 and BMW i8. Both plug-in hybrid models are part of the BMW i Division, which consists exclusively of electric and hybrid autos. As for the iNEXT—likely be called either the i5 or i6 when it finally arrives on dealership floors circa 2020—it will reportedly resemble the i3, except slightly larger. While we still don’t have a concrete idea of what the iNEXT will look like, preliminary designs suggest that it’ll resemble a crossover that’s made primarily of steel and carbon fiber. Moreover, the model will carry a panoply of digital features, from sensor and cloud technologies to enhanced mobility and high-definition map services. Although only the i3 and i8 belong to the i Division at this point, the iNEXT is the clearest indication yet that BMW sees this division as integral to its future. Before it can develop the iNEXT as an integral member of the i Division family, BMW will launch Project i 2.0—an initiative that will allow the automaker to concentrate on forward-looking projects like connectivity, cloud-based services and even artificial intelligence. Klaus Fröhlich, a member of BMW’s Board of Management of Development, further elaborated on the importance of Project i 2.0 to the BMW brand. “Our focus is clear: we are securing the BMW Group’s position as technological market leader,” Fröhlich told BMW Blog. “With Project i 2.0, we will lead the field of autonomous driving. We will turn research projects into new kinds of industrial processes, bringing future technology onto the road.” With the i Division, BMW is looking to solidify its position in a digital age that is already revolutionizing the auto industry. As it shifts its emphasis from analog to digital vehicles going forward, BMW will “[shift] from the actual hardware toward software and services,” to quote BMW CEO Harald Krüger. “To this end, [BMW] [will] leverage innovative technologies, comprehensive connectivity and zero-emission mobility,” Krüger added. In addition to the iNEXT, BMW is also releasing several electric and hybrid models such the i8 Roadster, scheduled for a 2018 release, and will double the battery capacity of the 2017 i3. With that said, BMW will continue to cater to customers accustomed to combustion-engine vehicles, which is why it’ll release its most high-profile SUV model to date, the BMW X7, around 2019. Look for a iNEXT concept to surface sometime in 2018. That may sound like a long time from now, but one thing’s for sure: Auto Publishers will be here to report on it and other i Division offerings as they’re announced.