BMW has unveiled the first all-electric Mini Cooper. Coming in early 2020, the car will start at around $35,000 and travel 235 kilometers (146 miles) per charge. Compared to similarly priced EVs on the road now with more than 200 miles of range, like the Kona Electric or the Tesla Model 3, the Mini’s mileage figure looks paltry. It will only look worse next year as more capable electric cars hit the road, and the Mini gets a more realistic EPA mileage rating. It’s a curious thing to see from a company that was early to electric cars, and it helps explain why BMW’s CEO Harald Krueger resigned last week.
Krueger was BMW’s CEO for four years, coming in not long after the company’s i3 electric crossover SUV hit the market. But in a message to employees on his way out the door last week, he reportedly cited the “enormous changes” happening in the auto industry as a reason for leaving. BMW, it seems, fell behind the curve on Krueger’s watch.
Bloomberg recapped some of the things that happened during Krueger’s tenure, especially when it comes to his attempts at future-proofing the automaker’s business. It wasn’t pretty. He delayed BMW’s first long-range EV, which reportedly led to an exodus of talent in that field. Sales of the i3 stumbled. He also doubled down on internal combustion engine cars at a time when European countries moved to restrict or outright ban them, especially diesels. Amid all of this, the company still lost market share to rivals like Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz.
BMW’s vision of the future became so disjointed under Krueger that, just two weeks ago, one of its lead executives said electric vehicles were “overhyped” at an event where BMW announced a new plan to accelerate its adoption of electric vehicle technology.
It’s no surprise, then, that the new electric Mini’s spec sheet reads like something that was announced three or four years ago. It has a respectable 184 horsepower for a car so small, but it will only do a 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) run in 7.3 seconds. That’s slower than the two-year-old Chevy Bolt. A longer-range version (270 kilometers or 168 miles) will be available for more money, though BMW didn’t say how much more.
BMW is known for the quality of its cars, and the Mini brand has such loyal followers that the new electric version will certainly find some fans. But while the rest of the industry is undergoing those “enormous changes” that Krueger cited, the first all-electric Mini looks more like a capitulation from BMW, down to the fact that — according to Automotive News — it’s little more than the i3’s technology shoe-horned into the 2014 Mini hard-top.
Most people only need to travel 200 or 300 miles by car once every few months, if that. So 146 miles could still handle a number of everyday trips. It could also slot nicely into its car-sharing fleet, depending on what shape that service takes following the merger with Daimler’s mobility arm. The Mini also won’t be the only EV with shorter range to be released moving forward. The adorable Honda E will only get about 124 miles of range when it hits the road later this year, for example. And BMW’s forthcoming electric SUVs, like the iX3 and iX4, should be far more capable when they eventually arrive.
But BMW was decidedly ahead of the curve on electric and hybrid cars just a few years ago. The new Mini is a sign that Krueger may have squandered that advantage.