The BMW i3 incorporates several extremely innovative features (as we noted in our August 2013 cover story), from its carbon fiber “life module” to its bottom-mounted battery pack to its unique optional range extender.
In a recent Forbes article and accompanying video, Sandy Munro calls it “the most advanced vehicle on the planet…as revolutionary as the Model T was when it came out.”
Munro knows whereof he speaks. His company, Munro & Associates, specializes in reverse engineering for the auto industry. He has taken apart a new i3 and examined every nut and bolt, and is offering (for about $500,000) a detailed analysis of its engineering, including the costs and manufacturing processes involved. “This is Grandma’s real cookbook,” says Munro. “Everything is exposed; there is absolutely nothing left to the imagination with this kind of costing.”
Carmakers often perform such tear-downs to get an inside look at their competition (Ford CEO Mark Fields recently explained how his company took apart and reassembled a Tesla Model S), and some hire Munro’s firm to do so for them.
In the highly entertaining video, Munro shows Forbes some of the i3’s key innovations, including the carbon fiber assembly that gives the little car superior crash protection, and the modular battery pack that allows any of the eight independently controlled modules to be replaced if a cell goes bad.
While engineers drool over these goodies, the suits in the corner office will take note of this fascinating discovery: Munro is convinced that the i3 will be profitable at a volume of about 20,000 vehicles a year. Considering that BMW has sold just over 6,000 units in the US in the i3’s first eight months on the market, that goal seems quite attainable.