BMW has cancelled an unknown number of orders for its new 330e plug-in hybrid because retailers have offered “discount terms which were simply not available”.

A BusinessCar investigation, sparked by reader John-Paul Corry, has revealed that BMW retailers have been writing to customers to notify them of the cancellations.

A spokesman for BMW confirmed the cancellations: “An incorrect rate was supplied by one of our retailers to the leasing brokers in question, as a result affected orders could not be fulfilled at the quoted price. BMW UK and the brokers and relevant leasing companies are currently working together to look after the customers affected.”

In a letter written by Adam Harley, BMW national leasing manager, to Select Car Leasing, and seen by BusinessCar, the company claimed: “Unfortunately, there have been a number of customers who have been caught up in offers generated by retailers offering discount terms on the new BMW 330e, which were simply not available.”

Harley continued: “Neither Select Car Leasing nor BMW (UK) Ltd were responsible for or complicit in the generation of these discount terms; however, we do, of course, acknowledge that the customer is of paramount importance. We simply cannot supply the BMW 330e at the terms the original figures were based on and have been working hard to find an alternative solution.”

The letter goes on to offer a 330d M Sport at a “similar rental figure” (though 40% tax paying 330d drivers will have to stump up £303 in monthly BIK compared with £61 for the 330e), but does not explain why the 330e is not being re-offered at a higher rate. BMW said around 20% of 330e customers would be affected as traditional company car drivers, with the majority of early cars being ordered under personal finance deals.

However, the spokesman claimed fleets and drivers could re-order order a 330e, but delivery times would be “much longer than before” and the “cost will be much higher”. The company is currently quoting six-to-nine month waiting times for a 330e.

“We just massively underestimated demand and are talking to the factory about increasing the number of cars. The delivery time is currently between six and nine months,” the spokesman continued.

Corry ordered his car through broker and BVRLA member Select Car Leasing, which in turn placed the order with Berry BMW in Heathrow. Berry later wrote to Corry explaining that it was unable to supply the order due to limited allocation of the 330e.

At the launch of the 330e, BMW said it predicted it would sell 1900 of the hybrids per year.

The BMW 330e has a CO2 figure of 45g/km which puts it in the 5% benefit-in-kind bracket and an official fuel figure of 148mpg yet has a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds. These stats, coupled to a strong residual value and excellent driving experience, mean the car scored 10/10 in its recent BusinessCar test drive, and have led to high demand from user-choosers.