BMW is to build a new city car, and has formed a team called Project 'i' to develop "completely new car and mobility concepts for megacities," according to BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer, who was speaking at the company's annual results press conference. 'i' stands for innovation, and the development team have a free-ranging brief to examine all kinds of technology, although BMW has said that one of these will be battery power.
"This project is fully independent and even free to act beyond BMW structures if necessary," says Reithofer. "The task of the "Project i" team is to present specific solutions already in the first half of the next decade. Whether this will require a fourth brand or not, will be decided at a later date." BMW has already been rumoured to be considering a fourth brand - as previously reported by Clean Green Cars - and Reithofer's comments confirm this thinking. However, the city car could also become an extension of the BMW or Mini brands. BMW has considered city cars in the past, as demonstrated by the Z13 concept of 2000 shown here.
Reithofer added that it wasn't clear which alternative drive system and which technologies will eventually dominate, which is "why we have decided to focus on a wide range of technological options." But he admitted that electric motor options are being looked at, for their zero-emission capability and their scope for delivering strong driving pleasure - a major plank of the BMW brand's appeal. A decision on this project's future "will be taken this year," he said.
Reithofer also reported that the company is creating 500 entirely new jobs to further its research into alternative propulsion, fuel and mobility systems, and added that BMW's EfficientDynamics technologies, fitted to 450,000 cars in 2007, had saved a theoretical 150 million litres of fuel in 2007 compared with 2006 - equivalent to 373,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. In 2008 the group anticipates selling 830,000 EfficientDynamics cars.