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BMW i electric cars to get the M treatment? Brand says its zero-emissions performance cars will be "very appealing"

Electrification of BMW's M performance brand is inevitable in the second half of the decade as it moves to a new architecture.

Speaking to CarsGuide at the reveal of the electric iX flagship SUV, BMW board member Frank Weber offered comments on the future of the i electric sub-brand and how it will play alongside the M performance brand.

When asked whether there will be M-branded i models, or independent M electric vehicles, Mr Weber said: “Maybe both will be the case.”

"We are now in our second phase of electrification,” he elaborated. “This will cover all our brands, not just BMW, but Rolls Royce and Mini, which you have already seen [with the Mini Cooper S E].

"We will also do this for M – you will see what it means for M soon. The i and M brands are not completely separate.”

It was clear Mr Weber was unable to give further specifics on timing or models, but he noted “combining BMW i – the concept of freshness, innovation and EV drive, with the sportiness, speed and directness of M is a very appealing thing.”

It is understood the i4 will be the first EV to blend elements of M with the i brand. It is understood the i4 will be the first EV to blend elements of M with the i brand.

However, we also know that the M performance brand’s CEO, Markus Flasch, has made comments in the past confirming the first blending of i and M will be a warmed-over performance variant of an i4 Grand Coupe. Interestingly, this is understood to not be a fully fledged M model, with Mr Flasch also stating the brand needs more time to develop its electric technology into something that could properly rival a petrol-powered M3 or M4.

BMW’s i sub-brand has so far seen the i3 hatch and i8 coupe, one decidedly more sporty than the other. Mr Weber said these products were “radical” at the time they were launched, but their respective discontinuations are deliberate.

“When you look back, 2013 – 2014, when we launched the i3 and i8, markets were not mature, not ready for electrification. But we had to send a signal, something new is coming, we had to say: ‘this is the future’,” he said.

The i3 is still in production, although the brand has confirmed it will not be replaced by a second-generation car. The i8 was discontinued earlier in 2020 after a six-year run.

But Mr Weber said the just-revealed electric iX flagship SUV was a culmination of the brand’s success, particularly in Europe. “We are the market leader for plug-in hybrids in Europe. Now we can combine our leadership of X [crossovers] with the inspiration of i,” he said.

The iX combines the brand's strength in both SUVs and electrification, according to Mr Weber. The iX combines the brand's strength in both SUVs and electrification, according to Mr Weber.

The iX represents the first BMW production car on the brand’s “second stage” electrification strategy, whereby it will gradually electrify almost every model in its line-up before moving to a full-electrification strategy in the second half of the decade. Interestingly, the next-generation petrol-powered G60 M5 is slated to arrive just before then, in 2024.

Next in line to receive the i production treatment (after the already-revealed iX and iX3) will be the i4 sedan, followed closely by all-electric versions of the 5 Series and 7 Series cars, and X1 small SUV.

BMW will make a major shift away from combustion in the second half of the decade. BMW will make a major shift away from combustion in the second half of the decade.

What could be in store for a fully fledged electric M? BMW showed off an electric 5 Series concept, dubbed ‘Lucy’, in 2019. It was the brand’s most powerful car ever, developing 510kW/1150Nm from a tri-motor drivetrain, and used torque vectoring in place of a limited-slip differential.

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