Four key i division employees have left to join a Chinese startup.

BMW has lost a few more key members of its electric i division to Future Mobility Corp., a Chinese electric car company backed by Tencent Holdings. Bloomberg reports that Dirk Abendroth, Benoit Jacob, and Henrik Wenders have all left BMW to become Vice President of Software and Connectivity, VP of Design, and VP of Marketing, respectively, at Future Mobility Corp. They join their former colleague, Carsten Breitfeld, who left BMW last month to become chief executive at Future Mobility Corp.

This defection couldn't come at a worse time for BMW's i division, with recent reports revealing that sales of the i3 and i8 were down sharply in the first quarter of 2016. A refreshed version of the i3 with a bigger battery is said to be coming later this year, but by then the 200-mile Chevy Bolt will be on sale and consumers will have had that many more months to swoon over next year's Tesla Model 3. Likewise, other automakers will bring even more plug-in hybrid models to market in that time to compete with the i3 and i8 directly. A third i model is also on the way, likely a four-door sedan called the i5, but its arrival could be as far off as 2020. By then, we'll probably get to see what these four former BMW employees are working on over at Future Mobility Corp.  

Source: Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal

Gallery: BMW i3