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BMW slashes model range amid WLTP fears

Date: 06 March 2018   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

BusinessCar understands that BMW has ceased production of a significant number of key fleet models, including plug-in hybrids and Efficient Dynamics diesel variants, due to the impact of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP).   

A senior leasing industry source received an email from the manufacturer in February, which confirmed it had stopped production of a large number of cars. The source described the full list of models as "huge", but specifically named the following: all plug-in hybrids except the 5 Series, the 520d Efficient Dynamics, the M3 and certain versions of the X1, X5 and X6 SUVs. 

"With the introduction of the new WLTP, BMW is taking proactive steps to bring its product portfolio in line with global regulations," the email read. The WLTP test will become mandatory for all new cars from September 2018 and is said to produce fuel economy and emissions figures more reflective of real-world driving than those produced from the current New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) system.     

The source told BusinessCar, "We can't order a 3 Series or Mini plug-in; everything's been suspended. That was only communicated to us a week or two weeks ago. We knew there was a problem, because all our plug-in hybrids are delayed. They say they will deliver the ones that we have on order, but they won't take any orders for new ones." 

Production of the models in question is expected to continue until between May and July 2018. The source added that production of the remaining plug-in hybrid model - the 530e iPerformance - had been doubled, but vehicles would be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while the flagship i3 and i8 electric/range extender models will remain available.  

A BMW spokesperson said, "We are dropping the 520 ED as we no longer see the need for that model in the line-up", and said that production of "some other variants" had paused, rather than ceased, as a result of WLTP, but did not name the models to which this related. 

He added, "In the case of the M3, it was due to end production anyway. So it didn't make sense to do technical updates for just a couple of months." 

The leasing company was also unable to place orders for the plug-in hybrid version of the Mercedes C-Class, the C350e, though the manufacturer had not made any announcement about availability or production, while the E-Class plug-in hybrid, the E350e, was said to still
be available.   

"I haven't had an official communication from Mercedes-Benz, not as yet, but we know we can't order C-Class plug-in hybrid now," said the source. "The reason I know that is that a colleague drives one; he was due a new one and he can't order the same again. It's off the list just now. They might come back on, and the E-Class plug-in hybrid is still available currently. The ones that are on order will be delivered over the next two to three months, maybe four months, but after that we're not going to have a lot of these plug-in hybrids." 

Plug-in hybrid and range-extender vehicles have traditionally produced extremely high official fuel economy figures under the current NEDC test - often well in excess of 100mpg - and are known for failing to reproduce such figures when driven in a realistic environment, unless the batteries are charged very frequently. The WLTP test could therefore have a detrimental effect on the official fuel economy and emissions figures of these models. 

"We're trying to understand the WLTP and how it's going to relate to CO2 - and nobody really knows where that's going; it's a bit undecided. How it's going to affect BIK will probably end up determining the vehicles that people choose," said the source. 

Though it has pledged to continue selling hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, fellow premium German manufacturer Porsche axed all existing diesel cars in February, blaming a lack of demand. On 27 February, Germany's Federal Administrative Court ruled that the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf could legally ban older, more-polluting diesel cars from zones most afflicted by poor air quality, which could eventually lead to similar initiatives in other German and European cities.