BMW Will Start Selling 5-Series Hybrid in March

By Danny King October 4, 2011

BMW ActiveHybrid 5 lede.jpg

BMW said it will start selling a performance-oriented hybrid version of its 5-series sedan next March, as the German automaker looks to make another attempt at the luxury-hybrid market after discontinuing its ActiveHybrid X6 crossover. Based the 535i sedan, BMW's ActiveHybrid 5 will pair the sedan's turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine with an electric motor that combined will deliver 335 horsepower and propel the car from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds. While BMW will announce pricing closer to the March 24 launch, BMW spokesman Dave Buchko told AutoObserver said the model, aimed at the core BMW audience, will start "considerably lower" than the $88,900 ActiveHybrid X6.

The automaker hasn’t yet provided fuel efficiency estimates for the new hybrid. But when it first showed off the ActiveHybrid 5 at the Geneva Auto Show early last year, BMW estimated that it would get about 10 percent better fuel economy than the conventional 5-series sedans. That would put the ActiveHybrid 5's fuel economy in the neighborhood of 27-miles-per-gallon. BMW said the ActiveHybrid 5 will be able to use its battery power alone at speeds of up to 37 miles per hour and will be able to travel up to 2.5 miles at a 22-mile-per-hour clip before the gasoline engine kicks on.

BMW ActiveHybrid 5 engine.jpgThe ActiveHybrid 5 marks an attempt by BMW to generate sales in a market that so far has vexed luxury automakers who'd banked on demand for high-end hybrid sports sedans and crossovers that offer only marginally better fuel economy than their gas-powered counterparts. Through the first eight months of the year, Lexus sold just 244 of its GS 450h and LS 600h L hybrid sports sedans combined, while Mercedes sold only 357 of its S-Class hybrids, according to data compiled by Edmunds.com. By comparison, Toyota moved almost 84,000 Prius hybrids.

"It seems like kind of a headache, from the manufacturers' standpoint," said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. "Even when gas prices were up to $4 a gallon, (luxury hybrids) sill weren't moving the needle."
While there isn't much of a business case for a lot of the high-end hybrids right now, “the regulations are coming that are going to require more of these, and OEMs have to keep working on the technology to perfect it," IHS Automotive analyst Jeff Jowett told AutoObserver. "Some will work out, like the (Ford) Fusion Hybrid and the Prius. Others will be a learning experience.”

With the conventional 5-Series priced at about $47,000 and accounting for 22 percent of BMW sales in the United States so far this year, the company may be looking to generate sales by offering a hybrid version that can be priced substantially less than its other hybrids. The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 sedan starts at $102,300 and the 2011 ActiveHybrid X6, which has been dropped from the 2012 lineup, started at $88,900. BMW sold just 30 of the hybrid crossovers in the United States through the first eight months of this year.

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