BMW abandons historic naming convention


When BMW fitted Kügelfischer mechanical petrol injection to the M10 engine in 1969 to create the 2000tii, a naming convention was born which would endure for more than half a century. Into the era of the 3-Series, that additional ‘i’ signified the modern wonder that was electronic fuel injection and the bootlid of your BMW would tell the world you’d stumped up for the powerful range-topper instead of the cooking carb model.

As fuel injection became commonplace in the 1990s, instead of being redundant the ‘i’ badge became a neat way of distinguishing between petrol and diesel models but as the world turned towards green technologies it all fell apart.

The Bavarian firm’s first steps into the world of battery electric power came under the newly established ‘BMW i’ sub brand which repurposed that ‘i’ badge to bring us the i3 and i8. By then of course, the advent of downsized turbo engines meant the badging convention which had precisely defined a BMW model for so many years was largely meaningless anyway when a 535i sported a 3-litre engine and a 316d had long been a 2-litre.

All of which means it was probably high time to abandon the ‘i’ suffix, but BMW fans were sombre at the recent announcement by BMW brand management chief Bernd Körber that the convention will be dropped. Unusually for the normally confident BMW, Körber admitted that the move comes as a result of customer confusion.

The forthcoming revised X3 will be the first new model to drop the famous ‘i’ and in future the letter will be used only as a prefix for the firm’s electric vehicles.

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