BMW i3, i8 sales down 23 percent; 'i' execs poached by China?

A forthcoming update to the i3 could help reinvigorate demand.

Demand for BMW's i-Series EVs and hybrids appears to have waned in the first quarter of 2016.

Combined sales of the i3 and flagship i8 reached 5,128 units globally in Q1, representing a decline of 23 percent from the same period last year, as noted by BMW Blog.

The range-extended i3 is the most popular package for US owners. Many buyers appear to be wary of the pure EV's 84-mile EPA range estimate, which is on par with the 24-kWh Nissan Leaf. Notably, the range extender adds $3,850 to the i3's $42,400 base price (excluding freight).

Cheaper segment rivals have since received upgrades for a bit more range. The 30-kWh Leaf now runs for an estimated 107 miles on a single charge, while the Ford Focus Electric will hit 100 miles for the 2017 model year.

BMW earlier this year confirmed plans to update the i3 with a bigger battery for "much more usable range." It is expected to deliver around 120 miles, though a specific figure has not been officially announced.

Separate rumors point to a third i-Series car, potentially labeled the i5, that is expected to take the form of a luxurious all-electric four-door sedan. Such a model would likely serve as a closer rival to Tesla's Model 3. With a promised 200 miles of electric driving and a $35,000 price tag, the Model 3 has already received more than 400,000 pre-orders nearly two years from its expected market arrival.

BMW has promised to gradually expand its i-Series family, however a Bloomberg report suggests several key 'i' executives may have been poached by Chinese EV maker Future Mobility. Backed by Tencent and Foxconn, the venture is said to have hired Dirk Abendroth, Benoit Jacob and Henrik Wenders. The former 'i' division managers will reportedly be working under former i8 project manager Carsten Breitfeld, now chief executive at Future Mobility.

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