In the rulebook  of product promotion, remembering to not say horrible things about your product has to be number one. 

It’s a shame BMW North America President and CEO Jim O’Donnell seems to have forgotten that fact while taking part in a public event. 

Speaking on Monday at an event in Manhattan marking the next phase in BMW’s electric car program due to start this Fall,  O’Donnell waxed lyrical about his own opinions of electric vehicles and the U.S. federal tax credits given to help consumers buy them. 

Sadly, his opinions are hardly new, and sound a little like those we’ve heard voiced by executives from other German automakers. 

(EVs) won’t work for most people O’Donnell stated. For at least 90 percent and maybe more of the population, (an EV) won’t work.

His evaluation strikes us as a little odd, especially since most daily commutes in the U.S. are within the 35 mile mile all-electric range offered by the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and well within the 73 mile range offered by the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

On the tax credit system, O’Donnell was brutally candid. 

BMW ActiveE electric car, at BMW Manhattan media event, April 2011

BMW ActiveE electric car, at BMW Manhattan media event, April 2011

I believe in a free economy. I think we should abolish all tax credits, he said, making clear  he was voicing his own opinions rather than those of the company. What they are doing is putting a bet on technology, which is not appropriate. As a taxpayer, I am not sure this is the right way to go.

If O’Donnell is so against tax credits and electric cars, what of the future of BMW’s ActiveE program and new BMWi sub-brand? 

No. Both are apparently safe, with the ActiveE lease scheme due to start later this year and both the i3 and i8 set to launch by 2013.  

O’Donnell reiterated that he felt the technology behind electric cars was being given an unfair advantage over other fuel types such as clean Diesel technology - also being developed by BMW - and that he wanted a level playing field between all so-called “green” fuel technologies. 

BMW diesel hybrid likely to feature in next-gen 5-series

BMW diesel hybrid likely to feature in next-gen 5-series

Interestingly, O'Donnnell admitted BMW will still take federal tax credit money, even if he disagreed with the system. We guess you can't look a $7,500 gift in the mouth, even if you morally object to how it came into existance. 

Beyond that though, we can't see BMW offering any favors to early adopters of electric cars, nor to those who seek to buy its i3 or i8 cars when they launch in a few year's time. For now, BMW appears to be a reluctant member of the electric vehicle club. 

[The Detroit News (subscription required)]