BMW expects jump in electric car sales in 2018: R&D chief

MUNICH (Reuters) - BMW BMWG.DE expects its sales of electric and hybrid vehicles to jump next year, its research and development chief said as the premium carmaker races to catch up with rivals such as U.S. electric car pioneer Tesla TSLA.O.

The BMW all electric i Vision Dynamics concept car. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Sales in 2018 will exceed a 2017 sales target of 100,000 vehicles by a medium double-digit percentage, Klaus Froehlich said at an event, without being more specific.

In the first 10 months of 2017, BMW sold 78,100 electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

BMW, which launched the i3 electric car in 2013, is gearing up to mass produce electric cars by 2020 and aims to have 12 different models by 2025.

Chief Executive Harald Krueger said BMW aimed to keep its return on sales around 8 to 10 percent even with the added costs of developing electric cars.

Carmakers are trying to lower the cost of electric vehicles by investing in the development of affordable but powerful batteries and through modular production systems.

BMW’s Froehlich said he expected such modular systems to benefit the development of autonomous cars as well.

BMW earlier this year teamed up with U.S. chipmaker Intel INTC.O and Israel-based camera specialist Mobileye to develop autonomous driving technologies.

Frohlich said another carmaker was to join them by the end of the year. He said the aim was to have partners from Europe, North America and Asia.

So far, U.S.-based Fiat Chrysler FCHA.MI and auto parts makers Delphi DLPH.N and Magna MG.TO have joined the partnership, along with Germany's Continental CONG.DE.

Reporting by Irene Preisinger; Writing by Arno Schuetze and Maria Sheahan. Editing by Jane Merriman