Sienna Miller and James Franco unveil the BMW i3 electric car, for some reason

Celebrity vehicle unveilings are nothing new. Just this spring, Daniel Craig was paid $1-million to pull the covers off the new Range Rover Sport. A couple years before that, Sharon Stone and a Baldwin brother were hired to debut the new Lotus models that, sadly, will likely never see the light of day.

This latest unveiling has got me a bit puzzled, though. Why do automakers hire celebrities to unveil cars? Makes me wonder if they’re trying to make up for something.

Take the all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which was just unveiled in May. It had no celebrity premier, though many celebrities will likely purchase it. Often considered the greatest car in the world, one might think the S-Class prestigious enough to warrant a cameo from Kanye West or Bill Gates. Instead, Mercedes let the car speak for itself.

Maybe, though, prestige has nothing to do with it. Perhaps automakers fear the car itself isn’t enough of a story to have its curtains drawn by a homely company chairman or product manager. Let’s look at the bones of the BMW i3 and see how it holds up to this theory.

The i3 stands as BMW’s first electric production car. Although BMW’s history with electric cars dates back to the 1600 model and continues clear up through the ActiveE model of late, it’s just never sold an EV to the public.

The i3 features a carbon-fiber body and an aluminum chassis, both of which are big news for BMW. The i3 is powered by a 170-horsepower electric motor that can propel the i3 to 62mph in 7.2 seconds.

Distinctively, customers can option the i3 with an onboard 650cc two-cylinder gasoline generator, which has been borrowed from the BMW Motorrad line. This engine can be fired up and used to create electricity, which is piped to the onboard battery pack and effectively doubles the driving range of the i3 from 81-99 miles to 180 miles.

No other electric car offers this option. The Chevrolet Volt comes with an engine whether you want one or not. Inversely, the Nissan LEAF does not come with an engine, even if you want one.

Step outside the drivetrain for a moment and study the bodylines of the i3 closely and I think it’s rather good looking. It’s no Tesla Model S in terms of visual appeal but for a compact electric car, it’s chic. It looks rounded and yet chunky and a bit futuristic.

It’s also been priced right. In Europe the i3 will cost 34,950 EUR ($46,406). This is more than a Nissan LEAF. But, hey, wouldn’t you rather have a BMW than a Nissan? I would.

So what is it then about the i3 needs the help of a couple handsome celebs? Honestly, I think BMW is a bit frightened by the i3.

At the unveil, when asked why an 81-99-mile range, BMW said that it felt customers didn’t need/want more range than that. A few weeks ago, though, BMW wagered that electric car driving range could double in the next three years. By its own logic, though, EV customers don’t want more than 90 miles of range – so why make such a claim? It’s a bit strange.

Move on from there and the i3 story gets even more confusing. BMW will be selling the i3 through different channels, including; online; at the dealership; or through a Customer Interaction Center (CIC). BMW reassures buyers that “all sales channels will be fully integrated and customers will be able to choose their own individual customer journey. Customers can easily switch between all four channels.” While this is a clever marketing plan, it’s new for BMW.

Taking all parts into consideration and something tells me there are some very worried men in dark grey suits back in Bavaria. “Put some pretty people in front of ze car and perhaps zey von’t notice how vorried ve are.”

When it comes down to it, the i3 is a big step forward for EVs and one that legitimized the breed better than anything before it. The LEAF was a gamble and the Tesla Model S, for as good as it is, still faces a shaky future. The i3, though, shows that EVs are here to stay, as a very serious company has now taken the EV leap.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the i3 and its forward-thinking technology and marketing plan, we’re still forced to see some B-level celebs pose in front of it, as if they know or care at all about the product. After giving it some thought, though, I finally understand why: The i3 is scary for BMW, but it really shouldn’t be.

Living

This Crazy Weighted Blanket Will Have You Sleeping Like the Dead

When we first heard about the idea of a weighted blanket, and more specifically the Bearably blanket we were, to say the least, pretty skeptical...
Auto

A List of Essentials to Create Your Own Car Emergency Kit

Having a few essentials in the car can help save your life — or someone else's — if you run into trouble on remote roads.
Auto

BMW’s M850i xDrive Is Perfect for When the Road Is Long and the Pursuit Is Pleasure

BMW has been out of the grand touring game for some time but the rebirth of the 8 Series gives the brand an aspirational model it so desperately needs.
Auto

Forget 4WD: These 6×6 Trucks Are the Only Way to Seriously Off-Road

Because size matters and more axles are always better than less.
Auto

Tesla’s Model 3 ‘Price Drop’ May Foretell a Looming Reckoning

If you looked at some news headlines, the $35,000 Model 3 is already here. So what gives and why does the faux price tag possibly spell a looming disaster?
Living

All 21 Six Flags Parks in the U.S., Ranked

It wasn't easy, but we ranked every Six Flags location in the United States. You're welcome.
Living

This Brutalist Revival Home in Greece Stands Out By Blending In

Forget those white stucco homes of Santorini. Patio House is the future of Greek design.
Living

Bruce Willis’ $13 Million Country Estate Is For Sale

Butch Coolidge and Korben Dallas would never live in a bucolic country estate in New York, which is why it’s so shocking that action movie superstar Bruce Willis did.
Travel

The Palms Casino’s Newest High-Roller Suites Have a Bowling Alley and Whiskey Room

The Hardwood Suite is a basketball-centric masterpiece, while the Kingpin suite is a bowling bro's paradise.
Living

Old Meets New in a Unique Way in Chicago’s Cortez House

Cortez House is refreshingly modern but with nods to the building’s past … including the original meat cooler.
Living

The Best Mattresses for Side-Sleepers Who Need Support

Do you sleep on your side? You may need a mattress designed with you in mind.
Living

The Jamaican Villa Where Ian Fleming Created James Bond is for Rent and It Is Amazing

You can vacation at the birthplace of secret agent 007, complete with butlers to make your martinis.
Living

The Best President’s Day Sales on Luxury Pillows This Weekend

Tired of sleeping on that old pillow? Upgrade to something more luxurious.
Living

A Simple Swedish Cabin Gets a New Addition and a Japanese Twist

The two styles have more in common than you think and Archipelago Sommarhus is proof.