NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The purpose of this article is to relay something I heard about BMW's next-generation plug-in electric cars, and to offer my interpretation of what it could mean. Usually when I speculate my level of conviction is higher, but let me tell you what is going on.
BMW has invented an entire sub-brand, called "i" with its own factory in Leipzig, Germany, as well as as its own carbon-fiber source in Washington state. The i-series cars are all plug-in electric -- with or without an additional gasoline engine, depending on the model -- and are made from aluminium, plastic and carbon fiber for radical weight savings.
The BMW i3 was the first to hit U.S. roads just a few days ago, so you should be seeing them in your favorite chic upscale restaurant areas soon. This car is priced mostly between $42,000 and $55,000.
The BMW i8 is a very spectacular four-wheel drive sports car, capable of 0-60 miles per hour in approximately four seconds, while also able to run 12-22 miles on pure electric power. It will be delivered to U.S. consumers starting in the third quarter of this year, but don't expect high volumes because the price starts at $136,000.
Demand at this early stage seems strong. The i3 is sold out for several months, and my friends who are trying to buy the i8 are telling me the BMW dealers are sold out until the end of 2015. That would be 18 months. Talk about being supply-constrained!
That said, BMW sure could use a more mainstream version of the i series. What I mean specifically is a car that can fit more than four people and have more luggage space.
The BMW i3 is more mainstream for the European market, but the U.S. market wants cars that can fit five or even seven corn-fed tall people, dogs and lots of gear for outdoor activities. Just look at the increasing market share for SUVs and minivans of various configurations. General Motors (GM) has record demand for its Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe models, with extraordinarily low 10 and 17 days' supplies recently reported.
Therefore, the speculation has been the next models in the BMW i series would have more SUV/crossover and large-car characteristics. Secondly, the timing has been very much unknown, ranging from 2015 all the way to late 2016.
I recently spoke to a source who is in a position to credibly have at least some potential sense of what is in BMW's pipeline. Here is what I was told: A BMW i5 and i9 will both arrive in late 2015.