BMW is set to become the first premium car maker in Europe to put a hybrid car on sale at the same price as the diesel version.
Officials at the German firm are considering introducing a 'same-charge' strategy when the option of petrol-electric drive is added to the ubiquitous 3 Series model line-up in 2016, Fleet News can reveal.
The radical move comes in the wake of an announcement by Ford that its new hybrid technology will go into the showrooms at the same cost as diesel power when it becomes available on the Mondeo four-door model next year.
Aimed at helping promote greater interest in upmarket alternative fuel motoring, the change in marketing represents a significant shift in the hybrid pricing policies operated by rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
BMW UK is understood to be close to setting the price for the first production plug-in hybrid it will sell - the petrol-electric X5 sports utility vehicle due to be launched in spring - but a spokesman said work to position the plug-in hybrid 3 Series saloon in Britain was still a long way from being completed.
“Despite that, we're taking the view that there is a marketing job to be done when it comes to hybrid motoring," he continued.
"The fact that this technology is being rolled out on our biggest selling product provides us with economy of scale and will help us make it more affordable.
“We have to make it an attractive proposition and are viewing this as a carrot and stick situation.
"Current thinking is that the hybrid will be priced within £2,000 of the base 3 Series, but there should be little difference between the two when specification changes are taken into account.”
Speaking at a technology event at the company's test facility in France, product development manager Helmuth Wiesler told Fleet News: “We think our hybrid vehicles should be priced according to their performance. The output of the 3 Series hybrid matches that of the 328i, so it should cost about the same.”
Both BMW models link two-litre twin turbo engines with electric motors and borrow management systems from the i3 and i8 electric drive models to achieve strong driving performance with a significant increase in economy compared with their conventional counterparts. In the longer term, the technology will become available on other core BMW products.
Provisional figures show the 3 Series hybrid to have a limited top speed of 155mph, 140mpg average economy and tailpipe emissions of 50g/km.