BMW’s Latest Naming Change Ends 50 Years of Tradition

Future Bimmers will only carry an “i” in their name if they’re electric.

byNico DeMattia|


Last year, rumors began to swirl about BMW changing its naming structure to be less confusing with its incoming fleet of electric models. One of the changes teased was to drop the "i" at the end of internal-combustion engine vehicle names. So instead of "BMW 330i," you'd just have "BMW 330." Now we know the rumors are true, as the Bavarians have officially confirmed that the "i" is no more.

"Historically, even though our interpretation of BMW i was always different, it’s more innovation, not necessarily only electric, and we historically had injection at the end [of the badge], we said, we would like to keep 'i' as an asset, and we would like to keep it as a signature to indicate you’re driving an electric car and that was the logic that we had," Bernd Körber, BMW's Senior VP of Brand Management told BMWBlog.

BMW has used "i" at the end of its vehicle names since the early 1970s, as it was there to denote the use of fuel injection, back when that was a novel automotive technology. It was a simple, easy-to-understand indicator that whoever was behind the wheel had deep enough pockets to spring for the fuel-injected model. However, after all BMWs switched to fuel injection, the "i" stuck around as more of a tradition than anything else. Then, as BMW expanded its lineup to SUVs and roadsters, things got a bit more confusing, with names like BMW X5 xDrive35i and BMW Z4 sDrive35i.

This is how you'll see "i" from now on. BMW

When BMW introduced its electric cars, though, things get out of hand, since it insisted that "i" stood for "innovation." Since the famous letter was on both gas and electric cars, it started to lose its significance.

Future internal combustion BMW models will be simpler now, with the first number indicating the model and the last two numbers indicating the engine. It's not quite as simple as it used to be back in the golden era of BMWs, as the last two numbers no longer align with its engine displacement, but it's simpler than it has been in recent years. So future internal combustion models will be called things like "BMW 330" and "BMW X320."

It won't happen all at once, as the first BMW to drop the "i" will be the next-gen X3, followed by the 1 Series and likely 2 Series Gran Coupe, according to BMWBlog. The 7 Series might also drop the letter with its upcoming facelift.

So as much as it seems kinda lame that BMW is dropping the iconic "i" from its gas and diesel-powered cars after half a century's worth of fame, it does actually make sense. Plus, it's sort of poetic that the "i" once stood for a useful new technology then, and it stands for a different new technology now. In any case, it's just going to take us all some getting used to.

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