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The BMW i8 is a shining example of bait and switch car launch sales hype

Or why you should never trust the words “rare or limited” when spoken by a car maker.

I bought my BMW i8 in Oct 2014. By mid-April 2015 I had sold it back to the dealership in an attempt to get ahead of what I thought I saw coming. Eight months later that decision is vindicated. People ask why I sold my i8 when I did in April 2015 after 6 months of ownership, I can now summarize my reasons in two pictures.


Here is the first i8 to arrive at my dealership in Oct. 2014

Illustration for article titled The BMW i8 is a shining example of bait and switch car launch sales hype

Here is one of the five i8s currently at the same dealership right now

Illustration for article titled The BMW i8 is a shining example of bait and switch car launch sales hype

During the six year period from the “Vision Efficient Dynamics” concept, the fall 2014 launch of the i8, and the current state of the i8 market (one third of all i8s produced for the US are unsold), the i8 has been many things. An evolving concept laying out BMW’s vision for future “eco” sports cars, a pruported limited-production halo car to rival the M1 in the importance and just slightly more common, to a relatively high volume sports car that they are making twice as fast as they can sell.

Here is a what a difference a year can make:

October 2014

  • Crazy markups over MSRP including some trading hands for $50k-75k over MSRP
  • Sales managers requiring “Right of first offer” to buy back the car when owners decided to sell and some requiring $50k deposits to secure an order
  • Dealerships being told and telling prospective customers that BMW is only making enough for dealerships (regardless of size) to get 1-2 a year or around 500 US cars a year
  • Cars are shipped to and between dealerships on covered/enclosed transports
  • BMW i8s occupy special areas in showrooms and access is limited to serious buyers and owners, some even rope them off

December 2015

  • Crazy markdowns of $10k-15k off MSRP
  • Sales managers have no problem allowing extended test drives
  • Dealerships are sitting on 5-10 i8s with no slow down in production, to date 2,164 i8s have been sold in the US and 705 are for sale. 5x what dealers were originally told to expect.
  • BMW i8s are occasionally transported on open trucks
  • BMW i8s are now parked on the grass out front next to long-term resident 2-series with more “out back if you’d like a different color”

What changed?

In March BMW decided to drastically increase i8 production, at least doubling the rate they had been producing. i8s and i3s are produced on the same line and share some components, so production was shifted from the lukewarm i3 to the red-hot i8. At some point between the unveiling of the production model at Frankfurt 2013 and March 2015, the decision was made (unknown to dealers and prospective buyers) that the i8 would become a volume sports car instead of a limited-production halo car. It’s now 3x harder to find a M6 GranCoupe for sale than an i8. There are actually fewer M6 Coupes in dealerships than i8s.


Now while almost no car is an investment, no one wants to learn their car is up for a completely avoidable and massive depreciation hit due to a hasty course correction by a car company. The i8 was and still is an extremely niche car with a very hot but limited (and I would say completely satisfied) customer demand. I consider myself lucky in that I bought my car for MSRP and was able to sell it back almost breaking even after 6 months and 5k miles, before the market was flooded with them. The number of available cars has been increasing by around 100 a month for the past few months thanks to BMW making sure supply easily exceeds demand.

The BMW i8 is a great car, one of the best I’ve ever owned. But now you can get into one for a LOT less thanks to BMW and their insatiable thirst for sales. I never expected the i8 to hold it’s value or appreciate, but I didn’t expect prices to drop so much, so soon. I also think I may have seen the writing on the wall even before my dealership, because they won’t return my emails about the M2. I’m pretty sure they’re not happy about getting 3-4 new i8s they weren’t expecting for 6-12 months just a month after they bought back mine for almost full price.


Bottom-line, never trust most of what a car maker says, especially when it comes to limiting sales and curating a “collector’s car”.

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