Who Will Drive BMW i3 Electric Cars? Waify Metrosexuals, According To Ad

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Although its arrival is still months away, we already know a lot about the all-electric BMW i3. We have a good idea of its range (with and without the optional range-extender), we've hypothesized about its sticker price, and a few lucky journalists have even gotten to drive around in it.  

But there's one thing we haven't known: who's going to buy this thing? Luckily, a new video from BMW has answered that burning question.


There are many, many types of ads -- classified ads, display ads, radio spots, and on and on. Most of the car commercials that we see on television are 30-second clips featuring shiny new vehicles zipping down scenic highways. Many don't bother showing people at all: we just hear voiceovers from well-known actors like John Hamm (Mercedes-Benz), Jeff Bridges (Hyundai), or Tim Allen (Chevrolet Cruze and Volt). 

One of the newer sorts of ads that's been made possible by the internet is what we might call the "video demo". These clips are a cross between commercials and owner's manuals, and they're generally far too long to be used on TV. 

Free from the time constraints of traditional ads, these demos show off vehicles in great detail, offering an idealized view of the ownership experience. They bear little or no resemblance to reality: like the homes in Architectural Digest, which have none of the clutter or kids or pets or leaky windows that most of us live with, video demos present the clearest possible picture of the "lifestyle" that the vehicle embodies. 

And that's exactly the sort of ad that BMW has made for the i3.

So whom does BMW envision as the ideal i3 customer? After a couple of viewings and some unofficial inter-office polling, we've identified three target markets:

  • Models
  • Metrosexuals
  • Europeans

How did we arrive at those conclusions? Let us count the hints as they tick by:

:13 -- Sleek, modern architecture: The i3 owners live in a house that would make Mies van der Rohe proud. It's clean, sturdy, and luxe, a sign of their modern, double-income-no-kids lifestyle.  

:34 -- iPhone: The BMW i3 is not compatible with commoners who use open-sourced mobile operating systems. Looking at you, Android people.

:48 -- Rented parking spaces: This is not the car for people who work at strip malls. 

:53 -- Model bangs: All the cool women are wearing them now (along with their oversized Birkin-y bags).

1:00 -- Trendy media job: LA.B Film is a producer of high-end commercial content (including this BMW clip, probably).

1:04 -- Another iPhone: Blackberry and Windows Mobile people need not apply, either. 

1:14 -- Man bag: That ain't no knapsack, it ain't no duffel. It's about one cubic foot bigger than a murse. (If you had to click that link for a definition, the i3 probably isn't for you.)

1:36 -- Genetic superiority: In case you hadn't noticed, BMW i3 owners are unusually attractive. Compare/contrast this couple with the BMW service man, who's more of a 3-Series-driving guy-next-door.

1:40 -- Beanpoles: Seriously, these people are wafer-thin. Their lives consist of half-salads and diet waters. 

1:49 -- Europe: Nine seconds ago they were in Los Angeles, now they're motoring around Europe.  

1:59 -- Back in LA: Translation: these folks are jet-setters.

2:05 -- Brentwood: They're meeting for dinner in Brentwood, which pretty much says everything else that needs to be said.

Add all that up, and you get BMW's idealized image of its new customer. But just as all Fiat 500 drivers aren't J-Lo, we have a hunch that BMW i3 owners will look a bit different in the real world.


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Comments (22)
  1. Fun article & nice play on the image that new vehicle models create. The i3 is a major milestone in vehicle evolution. It is great to see design experience extending beyond the hardware. Wondering how many of the support services will be optional vs. "included" with purchase?

    Pricing & perceived value will ultimately determine personal choice.

  2. A few nit-picks from demo… nothing specific to the i3.

    0:17 Testing 120V socket … implies a 15-20 hour charge time. A 220V socket gives full charge in 4-6 hours or less. Cost of either connection option is about the same.
    0:51 Need a special card to charge, but can check charge status on cell?
    Auto OEMs & EVSE providers need work on integration.
    0:57 EU Type 2 connector vs. US J1772 standard (not really filmed in LA)
    2:05 "Calculating ECO Route"… min. time on clogged freeways filled fumes. Nice feature for LA driving. ;)
    2:22 Parking at Charge Station w/o plugging-in is rookie mistake… (l)earning ticket?!

    Overall the film is educational, and does good job of setting expectations.

  3. I'm not sure what the Waify-Metro rant is all about.

    BMW is developing their EVs for the inhabitants of the world's Mega Cities. Of course, they are going to feature hip, attractive Yuppies in their ads. Why would they feature an overweight suburban family, who will most likely opt for an SUV?

    Disclosure: I'm an overweight, middle-aged suburbanite, but I would really love an i3 for commuting to work.

  4. Love the analysis of the ad... Everything screams nouveau San Franciscan... I see this type of couple everyday!

  5. I always wondered why we in the midwest were the last to get ev's. I see why... I think I'm going to go out a purchase a Leaf... :(

  6. "Another iPhone: Blackberry and Windows Mobile people need not apply, either. "

    Just happens that AAPL share lost another $23 today...

  7. Hysterical! Where in the BMW ads are the coal-miners, ditch-diggers, ranchers, welders and garbage collectors?

  8. Excellent point. To imply that only Metrosexuals are being targeted to buy EVs is a bit of a stretch. There are a lot of folks out there interested in a practical, low cost EV.

  9. Hey, BMW welcomes them as customers, too, of course. But it's not BMW's fault if those people are not super attractive and thus won't be invited to appear in the slick ads...

    And, yes, I'm one of those not attractive enough to appear in the ads, too. Yet I'm still interested in the i3 and i8.

    Overall, I loved the comments, Richard, all taken in good humor, of course! Let's not overthink things or read too much into all this.

  10. i8 is much cooler looking than the i3, IMHO.

  11. I would agree. I think the i3 is a little weird and it may be one of those vehicles that is polarizing and looks much better or worse in real life as compared to looking at only pictures. The interior is intriguing to me, so I look forward to finally getting a chance to see one in person soon.

  12. One interesting thing missing from the ad is typical BMW "performance" related themes... But I have to admit that those tall skinny tires/rims do look kind of "cool".

  13. Let's see, we now live in Europe (Warsaw), but will be returning to California later this year (Jet-setters?) to live near San Francisco. We, of course, are much more attractive than the average couple, and we are DINKs. Since between us we have run over 300 official marathons and actually won individual overall and age group awards (not slow, therefore clearly on the slimmer side), and we are even building a new, high tech house back in California later this year,

    I guess it will be no surprise that we are ALREADY on the waiting list with our local BMW dealer to place an early order for an i3.

    What the analysis did not indicate is that we, and I suspect other i3 customers, will be migrating from other plug-in vehicles.

  14. George, your comments seldom fail to interest and amuse me, thanks for the hilarious comments, even if you did make my self-image sink since I'll pass on the marathons personally...

    If a stereotype is a good one, is it a bad thing? I think you make a personal example of an ideal target customer and that's not a bad thing in this case. Other than the marathons, again, we share a bit in common, it appears, and I'll look forward, again, to reading your comments about your i3 when you receive your i3.

    Warsaw? Good for you! I've never had the chance to visit but visited Krakow last spring and I really enjoyed it.

  15. I am here for all of the Spring semester(5 months) as a Fulbright Scholar. There are an interesting range of cars here, and Audi, Mercedes, ans BMW are quite common.

  16. I don't give a %^$#@% about who's driving it. Just price it so I can afford it and save gas, BMW.

  17. Only 2 doors? Vas is das?

    Dude needs a shave.

  18. I think there is a 4-door version with "suicide" doors. But it is a 4-seater which is fine for most people.

  19. The production i3 will be 4 doors with rear opening back doors if all continues as planned.

  20. :58 - Difficulty counting: that person is clearly about to plug a 5-pin J1772 connector into a 7-pin chargeport.

  21. Yep, I was wondering if anyone else caught that! No wonder they cut away before the connector met the port!

  22. It is an "ad". You can't believe every single thing they do in the ad. :)

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