Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Week at the BMW Plant in Leipzig, Germany -- the BMW i3

So we spent one week at BMW Leipzig, June 1-5.  At times it was rigorous and exhausting, and especially difficult for me because I have bad knees and plenty of stair climbing and walking during plant tours. We had two long tours of metal shop, conventional assembly, and i3 and i8 lines. We also had presentations on the plant's commitment to sustainability, energy efficiency, and ecology related to the plant site and operations.
Of course, it is BMW's i3 and i8 assembly that really puts this facility on the cutting edge. I was really surprised in researching the i 3 how popular it is in the U.S., being outsold only by the Tesla, and the Leaf (barely). The i3 has a radical cockpit design and about a 100 km range that can be extended with a 500 cc motorcycle engine (an option that carries with it a hefty surcharge!). It is a car for the "Mega-City" market, and while the students loved driving it, I doubt it would have much applicability outside the East and West Coast of the U.S. and perhaps Chicago.
It is a visionary product by all accounts, and it demonstrates the forward thinking of BMW.  Will the 2016 GM Volt cut into this German success story? Only time will tell, but since BMW got to the market niche first, we'll see if GM as a late comer with its improved Volt can make significant inroads.


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