BMW announced it will end production of the i8, which is available as a coupe and as a roadster, after a six-year production run. The model had a formative influence on current and future members of the company's range.
The i8 started life as a wildly futuristic gasoline-electric concept introduced at the 2011 edition of the Frankfurt auto show. At the time, Autoblog described it as "a hybrid enthusiasts can get behind." BMW hinted the design study could make the leap from the show floor to the showroom floor, so the production model didn't exactly take the world by surprise, but we were shocked at how little it had changed since its debut. It retained the concept's lines, though it gained full doors, and it arrived with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain built around a three-cylinder engine.
Production started in 2014, and the i8 has proudly stood at the top of the BMW lineup since — in image and technology, not in price. Lessons learned from fine-tuning its gasoline-electric drivetrain helped engineers develop more volume-oriented hybrid models, and some of its other features — like the laser headlights — trickled down to the rest of the range. BMW launched a convertible variant of the i8 aptly named Roadster in late 2017.
While not a high-volume model, and certainly not designed as one, the i8 stands out as one of BMW's best-selling standalone sports cars. The company built the 20,000th example in December 2019. For context, it made 399 street-legal units of the M1 between 1978 and 1981, and it sold approximately 5,700 Z8s from 2000 to 2003.
BMW's Leipzig, Germany, factory began making the final evolution of the i8, a limited-edition model named Ultimate Sophisto, in 2019. Production is scheduled to end in April 2020. Autoblog learned from a company spokesperson that the final car off the line will be delivered to a customer, just like a standard i8.
As of writing, there's no indication the i8 will get a direct successor. One of BMW i's next models is a 3 Series-sized electric sedan previewed by the 2020 i4 concept. Looking further ahead, members of the company's top brass have strongly hinted the 600-horsepower Vision M Next introduced in 2019 will spawn a production car sooner or later. It will be much quicker than the i8, and it will offer more than twice times its electric range.