Competition In The Electric SUV Market Starting To Heat Up

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Tesla Model X

As the official launch of the Tesla Model X approaches, it seems that every other global automaker is in a hurry to start production of an all-electric SUV and prevent Elon Musk’s company from gaining a huge first-mover advantage in what is expected to be a pretty competitive segment in the years to come.

A couple of weeks ago, Audi officially confirmed that it is developing a Model X rival, and now, a report states that its German counterpart BMW is set to start production of an electric SUV model, as well.

Audi Q6 E-tron
Audi Q6 E-tron

As reported by German magazine Wirthschaftswoche, BMW intends to build a battery-powered SUV that is meant to compete with Tesla’s crossover and the recently-announced Audi Q6 e-tron. According to the report, the company is considering building it in the U.S., in its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but it doesn’t reveal when the vehicle is expected to go into production.

The Spartanburg plant is BMW’s only manufacturing facility in the United States, and it’s the place where all of the company’s sports utility vehicles are built.

In order to be able to produce the new crossover at the Spartanburg plant, BMW will have to expand it, and the German magazine reports that the company plans to spend $1 billion on it by next year. At the moment, the plant’s production capacity is 350,000, and after the expansion, it is expected to be able to roll out 450,000 a year.

While there is no information regarding the specs of BMW’s new SUV, it’s safe to say that it will be part of the car maker’s “i” brand, which includes the all-electric i3 city car and the i8 plug-in hybrid coupe. Given that both of them feature carbon-fiber bodies, chances are that the all-electric SUV will also use this lightweight material extensively, which means that it will be pretty fuel-efficient.

As far as range is concerned, in order for this SUV to be a worthy competitor to the Model X, it will have to be capable of traveling at least 250 miles per charge.

Some speculate that the electric SUV will be based on the platform that BMW is using for the X7, which is due to launch in 2017. If this turns out to be true, it would mean that the new SUV will not go into production at least until 2018.

2016 BMW X7
2016 BMW X7

BMW’s decision to build a plug-in SUV is pretty reasonable, considering that demand for utility vehicles, especially in North America, has been quite high for some time now.

Over the past couple of months, there has been a lot of speculation regarding BMW’s plans to build a plug-in sedan, but the midsize sedan segment has declined lately, which might be one of the reasons that the company has opted for an SUV. The fact that Tesla is about to launch its Model X crossover, and Audi also plans on building an all-electric sports utility vehicle, is definitely another reason prompting BMW to start production of a plug-in SUV.

This means that, unlike the Model S, the Model X will face serious competition, which could prevent it from dominating its segment the way the luxury sedan has.