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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

NY Auto Show 2012 : What a Difference a Year Makes!

Unlike last year's NY Auto Show, the ActiveE isn't the center of attention anymore
This time last year, the MINI-E pioneers here on the East Coast were invited to a special sneak-peek of the ActiveE before the show was open to the public. Rich Steinberg and his EV team introduced us to the car for the first time, let us sit in it and gave us all the ActiveE program details. We were then all taken out for lunch where we shared MINI-E stories and talked about what we are looking forward to in the ActiveE. 

Last Years Auto Show- Recognize that guy?
This year's NYIAS was a bit different. The ActiveE was there, but it really garnered little interest. The program has launched, just about everyone that's getting a car has by now and BMW's electric vehicle focus has shifted to the i3 & i8. Concepts of both vehicles were on display, they were roped off in a section that only VIPs were allowed to enter, and even then they couldn't sit in them. These are concepts, the actual production versions have not yet been unveiled and probably won't for about another year, even though the final form has long been determined.

The i3 & i8 slogan is 'Born Electric'
However that's not to say BMW isn't taking what they learn from the ActiveE program to apply to the i3 because they are. BMW closely monitors the ActiveE forum, the Facebook groups and individual blogs like this one and is definitely using the feedback they are getting. For instance, I (and others) have been very vocal about allowing the car to stay in Eco Pro mode once selected. The way it works now, you have to select it every time you get in the car and quite often you forget. I think the driver should be able to simply select the mode they want the car to default to and have it stay in that mode until they change it. I've written about this here and on other sites. At the show today, no less than three different people at BMW told me they read my comments and after thinking about it agree with my assessment. Of course nobody would tell me for sure they will offer that on the i3, but the impression I got was like "look at what we learned already" from the ActiveE program. What good is learning something if it's not applied, so it's easy to connect the dots. ;)

I had the opportunity to talk with quite a few BMW representatives today, including Rich Steinberg, manager of electric vehicle sales and strategy and Ian Robertson who is a member of the board of BMW and also serves as head of sales & marketing of the entire BMW Group. Ian told me he recently drove an i3 and promised I will not be disappointed by the final production version. I was really surprised at the level of excitement that most people at BMW shared about the i3. The people that have had the opportunity to drive one have all commented on how great it drives and how it will offer a great driving experience. More than one person there told me they will be getting one once they are available, and that's great to hear.

There wasn't much new information about the i3 or i8, my guess is we will have to wait a bit for that. The i3 doesn't launch until September or October of next year, so BMW isn't going to show their cards for a while. The auto industry is extraordinarily competitive and manufacturers go to great lengths to keep the competition wondering what they have planned for future models. So while I'd love to see all the i3 details, I'm guessing it won't be until this time next year before we start  learning much about the car and not until the summer of 2013 before we get all the details. Time will tell. Anyway, at last year's NYIAS I did a live Q&A with Rich Steinberg and Tom Plucinsky. We fielded live questions on the upcoming ActiveE and I talked about my time with the MINI-E. I posted it here last year but for those that missed it, I'm posting it again below. Remember, this is from LAST year's NY Auto Show.


  1. Hey Tom, don't forget to mention keeping the heated seats active, even in EcoPro mode.

    1. Hi Stuart:

      Yes we discussed that! I *think* you'll see that on the i3 for sure ;)