The BMW iX3, the company’s first long-range electric vehicle, won’t be coming to the US after all. While the German automaker had previously left the door open to a US release sometime around 2021, a company spokesperson told Automotive News on Sunday that the iX3 will only be sold in Europe and China, which is where it’s being made.
Announced in 2018, the iX3 is meant to be BMW’s first long-range — and first normal-looking — electric vehicle. It largely resembles the X3 SUV, the company’s most popular vehicle in the US. But instead of a combustion engine, the iX3 is powered by a 74kWh battery pack that is supposed to power the SUV for 273 miles when full. It’s slated to go into production later this year.
The iX3 is not the first EV to be steered away from the US, which is the second-biggest auto market on the planet. Volkswagen decided not to bring its first “electric car for the masses,” the ID 3, to the US even before it went into production, opting instead to make the larger ID 4 SUV the first EV that the automaker will sell here. In December, Mercedes-Benz pushed back the US launch of its first long-range electric SUV, the EQC, to 2021.
Despite the country’s might when it comes to buying new vehicles, many electric vehicles that aren’t from Tesla have struggled to catch on in the US. General Motors sold around 16,000 Chevy Bolt EVs in 2019, and Nissan moved around 12,000 Leafs. Consumers bought about 5,000 or fewer of every other all-electric car on the market in the US last year. Some hybrids have fared better, like the Prius Prime, of which Toyota sold around 23,000 in 2019. Others have been outright discontinued, like Honda’s all-electric Clarity sedan, which was killed off on Monday.
BMW did sell around 4,800 i3s in the US last year — not bad for the company’s first all-electric car, which first went on sale here in 2014. But the company wouldn’t say why it’s decided not to test the US’s EV waters with the iX3, especially given the success of its gas-powered successor. Instead, the company only pointed to the iNext SUV and the i4 sedan as its next all-electric entries into the market. (BMW also owns Mini, which is releasing an all-electric car powered by the i3’s EV tech in March of this year.)
As for why it’s making the iX3 in China, BMW’s reasons are a little easier to fathom. China is the biggest market for electric vehicles (and cars in general) in the world, and making them locally helps the company sidestep import taxes. Making the iX3 in China also puts BMW close to the main supply chain for EVs. It’s also likely to save BMW money, as Ford once said it could save up to $1 billion by making the Focus there.