BMW says the lack of incentives for hybrid ownership in Australia is “distressing”, but more electrified BMWs are coming anyway.
For many months, BMW Australia has been lobbying government to introduce legislation encouraging the purchase of low-emissions vehicles, according to Lenore Fletcher, the company’s manager of corporate communications.
“We’ve been extremely active for at least 18 months in terms of speaking to government departments – federal, state, local. It’s something that’s an ongoing and very strong activity within BMW.
“We’re not asking for huge incentives, but if you look at European or USA models, the fact that Australia has nothing in place is quite distressing.”
In Australia last year, hybrid and electric vehicles accounted for just 1.15 per cent of the 1,155,406 new cars sold. So far in 2016 that figure is 1.04 per cent.
Australia is lagging behind much of the world in terms of reducing C02 emissions. A graph presented by BMW at the launch of its newest hybrid vehicle illustrated the situation.
“Europe stands at an average of 124 grams per kilometre. Australia stood at 177; so we currently rank at 31st in the world, alongside Mexico,” says Shawn Ticehurst, head of product and market planning at BMW Australia. “As a first-world country, we’ve still got quite some way to go.”
The company believes awareness is the key to improving that statistic.
“We need to see the government have some say in what is going to happen going forward, to encourage consumer awareness,” says Fletcher. “If we can get the government on board, talking about this outwardly, saying that it’s a good thing to be sustainable, it will definitely grow.”
BMW is forging ahead with its electric car program, whether the government responds to the calls or not.
“The technology is here and it’s available and we’re bringing it into place. It’s coming anyway.”
BMW Australia’s newest charged-up hopefuls sit within its two best-selling model ranges. The BMW 330e and BMW X5 xDrive 40e plug-in hybrids went on sale this month.
BMW in Germany has revealed plans to manufacturer a hybrid 7 Series model, and it is currently under evaluation for Australia.
“There’s no firm plans on which models, but we can certainly say other models in the BMW range will get plug-in hybrid technology in the near future,” said Ticehurst
BMW hasn’t stated whether it would like the government to entice potential buyers with direct financial contributions, improved infrastructure or another approach altogether.
“I think the most important thing for us is to have from the government some set targets in place. We need to see from the government some endorsement or validation of this technology,” says Fletcher.
Pricing these hybrid vehicles with their higher production costs and lack of government subsidies has been a challenge for BMW locally.
“The cost of producing hybrid cars is expensive. There’s no doubt about it,” says Ticehurst.
The newly added BMW 330e plug-in hybrid is listed at $71,900, a $2000 premium over the most popular 3 Series model – the 330i – which it matches for specification and trim.
BMW admits it costs far more than $2000 to add hybrid componentry to the 330i, but it wants the car to be within reach of buyers. The 330e is almost $30,000 cheaper than the last electrified 3 Series, the ActiveHybrid 3, of which BMW sold 33 in total, between September 2012 and July 2015.
“We definitely make money on [the 330e]. There’s a margin, but it’s narrower. It has been a real struggle, to be honest, to find that point where we know the market will accept it, and we’re making a satisfactory margin,” explains Ticehurst. “To be blunt, it is lower. But we felt we’ve got to do something with these prices to make these cars relevant.”
The 330e’s rivals are similarly priced. Mercedes-Benz sells its C300e hybrid for $74,900. Lexus wants $68,000 for the IS300h F Sport, and the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid S costs $67,900.
“The point here is we’re going ahead with it,” concludes Fletcher. “We’ve gone ahead with i3, we’ve gone ahead with the i8 as the halo car for the brand and now we’re going ahead with these [330e and X5 40e].”