* New i3 electric car to start at 34,950 euros
* Analysts anticipated price below 40,000 euros
* BMW counts on electric cars to polish innovation image
(Adds analyst comment, background)
BERLIN, July 22 Germany's BMW will
sell the battery powered i3 city car at a lower-than-expected
base price to stoke demand for its first electric vehicle as the
luxury auto maker aims to keep rivals Audi and Mercedes at bay.
The four-person i3, developed from scratch, will start at
34,950 euros ($45,900) when it goes on sale in Germany in
November, Munich-based BMW said on Monday, a week before
unveilings planned in London, New York and Beijing.
Analysts expected a base price of below 40,000 euros.
BMW, pitching the i3 even as demand for battery technology
has disappointed over costs, weight and concern about range, is
targeting second-car buyers in urban regions in the world's main
auto markets, sales chief Ian Robertson said last week.
The world's biggest luxury car maker has not given a sales
target for the i3, although Robertson has said it aims to be "a
significant player" in the market for electric vehicles which he
has pegged at about 150,000 cars worldwide in 2012.
"The price is very competitive," Frankfurt-based Commerzbank
analyst Sascha Gommel said, citing an anticipated range of
37,000-40,000 euros. "It seems realistic that BMW could grab a
decent share of the electric-car market" with the i3.
BMW created a separate "i" sub-brand to market electric
vehicles and is counting on the i3 and the i8 plug-in hybrid
sports car, due to hit dealerships early next year, to give it
an edge in innovation, a key attribute for premium auto
BMW group, which also includes Mini and Rolls-Royce cars, is
stepping up investment on new vehicles and technologies as
German rivals Audi and Mercedes seek to
snatch the luxury-sales crown by the end of the decade.
Volkswagen-owned Audi, which eclipsed Mercedes as the
world's No. 2 premium-auto maker in 2011, narrowed the gap to
BMW to no more than 24,000 cars after six months from 85,000 at
the end of 2012.
Both of BMW's electric cars use carbon fibre and reinforced
plastics on a lightweight aluminium chassis and parts, to trim
weight and battery costs. The i3 will also offer a range
extender permitting the car to drive over 300 kilometres, more
than double the normal distance on battery alone.
($1 = 0.7611 euros)
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer. Additional reporting by Victoria
Bryan; Editing by Louise Heavens)