BMW entered the electric-car market as it unveiled the company's battery-powered i3 model across the globe on Monday (July 29).
The i3's launch event was simultaneously staged in New York, London and Beijing.
The world's biggest luxury carmaker has declined to give sales or production goals for the four-seater i3, to be followed early next year by a battery-powered i8 sports car.
In New York, BMW AG CEO Norbert Reithofer introduced the vehicle.
But the company already sees good sales potential for its first all-electric vehicle. Reithofer said, outside of Europe, the global marketplace is good.
"It's purpose built for electric power."
"We think the European market will decline by another five percent in 2013, but the good thing is if I look into the United States, I mean our growth rate in the first half of 2013 was 8.9 percent, more than 170 thousand vehicles. If I go to China, the growth rate was 15 percent, more than 180 thousand vehicles. Very promising markets... a market like Russia. In the meantime, important for BMW, South Korea, Japan Australia, Brazil... I mean we are doing really good business in a lot of small markets and this will be the business opportunity of the future," he told Reuters.
Some 92,000 people have expressed an interest in test-driving the i3 online.
Bill Visnic, Senior Editor at auto research firm Edmunds.com, said the U.S. market may not be ready for an all-electric car.
"BMW's got a unique proposition here. You're coming into a segment that's not had a lot of volume so far. Americans aren't wholly convinced that electric cars are really for them. So it's interesting to see BMW come in with a premium badge, a prestige sort of a name, into the electric car market to see if they can make a difference."
Visnic added BMW still must prove the all-electric car makes a good business sense.
"You need to convince and reassure your shareholders that this isn't a vanity project, that we're not throwing away the company's money. But by the same token, I think it's important to send that message that it is a sustainable business, not just about what the vehicle is itself, but that you can make business and make a business case for this kind of a car."
The new i3 goes on sale in November this year in the UK and in 2014 elsewhere. The price starts at £25680.
With a 220-volt charger, i3 can be completely charged in about three hours, according to BMW.
Presented by Adam Justice