The production version of the BMW i3 electric car will be unveiled at September's Frankfurt Motor Show, and anticipation is building.

How much BMW's first battery-electric car will cost is one of the biggest open questions.

Now Ludwig Willisch, the CEO of the Bavarian maker's North American arm, has given a hint.

The BMW i3, he told Automotive News, will be priced about the same as a well-equipped version of the company's famous 3-Series compact sport sedan.

That puts the price at about $40,000, he said.

We had a few questions about the story, so we reached out to BMW.

BEV or ReX?

First, is Willisch discussing the price for the battery-only version of the BMW i3, which will likely have an EPA-rated range of 80 to 100 miles?

Or is he discussing the version fitted with the ReX range-extending two-cylinder engine, which roughly doubles that range--but with reduced performance compared to its operation on battery power?

Dave Buchko, of BMW's technical and product communications team, responded that BMW i3 pricing hadn't been finalized, so he couldn't offer specifics.

However, he said, "any indication any of our executives may have given about a base price for the i3 has always been in reference to the battery-electric version"--not the model with the optional ReX range extender.

Not net pricing

Second, is Willisch using the deceptive practice of 'net pricing', in which the manufacturer quotes the price after the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit is netted out?

Buchko said that Willisch's figure was not net pricing.

But, he reiterated, Willisch said in the interview that the i3 will have a price "on par with a well-equipped 3-Series"--which he noted "falls more in the $45,000 to $50,000 range."

BMW 3-Series model prices range from $32,550 for the base 320i model up to $49,650 for the ActiveHybrid 3 sedan before any options--or, if you include the high-performance M line, up to $68,750 for the M3 Convertible.

In the end, we'll stick with our prediction that the 2014 BMW i3 will have a base price between $42,000 and $46,000.

BMW i3 Concept live photos, 2012 L.A. Auto Show

BMW i3 Concept live photos, 2012 L.A. Auto Show

ReX version eligible for credit?

We note the Automotive News article suggests that BMW is "waiting to hear" from the EPA whether buyers of the range-extended version of the 2014 BMW i3 can get the full $7,500 tax credit.

That's confusing, since the credit is based on battery-pack size: any plug-in electric passenger car with a pack of 16 kilowatt-hours or larger qualifies for the credit, with or without an engine.

That's why the Chevrolet Volt (16-kWh pack, range-extending engine) qualifies for the full credit, just as the Nissan Leaf (24-kWh pack, no range extender) does.

"The i3 is expected to qualify for the tax credit," Buchko said, "but until all of the t’s are dotted and the i’s are crossed [sic], we’re not factoring that in."

Electric cars at most BMW dealers

Willisch also told Automotive News that BMW expects the majority of its 338 U.S. dealers will sign up to sell the i3, along with the plug-in hybrid i8 sports coupe.

Dealers would have to decline to take the cars by June, he said.

Actual U.S. prices for the 2014 BMW i3 won't be set until sometime this fall, after the car has been launched in Frankfurt.


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