By on January 6, 2012

Do you think that BMW and Mercedes are manly brands? Automotive News [sub] has a different opinion. BMW and Mercedes look childish, the industry rag says. Reason for this decree: The inability of both German luxury brands to show their numbers on time. AN sees two possible explanations for the delay. One explanation “is that the two companies have woefully inadequate sales-tracking software.”

AN does not buy into that one. AN thinks the more likely explanation is a playground showdown, where two boys compare their didis:

 “Show me yours!”

“No, you show me yours first!”

Each company wanted to see the other’s sales numbers first, so that it would know how high its figures would have to be to grab the U.S. luxury-market crown from the other.

By the time the numbers came out, I was wondering whether that would be the end of the gamesmanship. Might the No. 2 brand “discover” some extra numbers that put it ahead? As in “Oops, we forgot to count Connecticut.”

The puerile processing of sales data will cast a dark cloud over the title “biggest luxury carmaker in the U.S.” Which is a self-defeating title anyway. You become the king of the luxury hill by making the most luxurious cars, not by selling the highest quantity. This year, the counting brouhaha made the title utterly worthless.

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20 Comments on “AN: BMW and Mercedes Are Childish...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I wonder how much channel-stuffing was necessary to achieve those numbers…

    numbers…

    Whether this did occur, or not, could be verified by comparing month-to-month changes in days supply for both brands.

  • avatar
    mike978

    I agree with Bertel that the title is meaningless, but I didn`t hear any complaints when Lexus (and therefore Toyota) made a big thing of being the volume leader for the past 10+ years.

  • avatar

    We’ve already established this: BMW won.

    You become the king of the luxury hill by making the most luxurious cars, not by selling the highest quantity.

    Rolls-Royce > Maybach

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Bertel, you manage to consistently pick the most amusing and apt pictures to go with your article titles. Absolutely cracks me up.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Neither are worried about sales though. Other companies are sweating every quarter while these two are just chugging along. Hyundai is in the same mode.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    I would like to see the model breakdown for BMW and Mercedes, I suspect both are very SUV heavy. When Lexus was on top it was always because of the sales of the Real Housewives of [insert your city here] RX. While us gearheads focus on the cars, the real competition for the luxury brands is to have the crossover that will make suburban housewives look as fancy as possible.

    Speaking of that loaded Toyota Highlander, there is so much overlap between luxury cars and “mainstream” well equipped cars that I’m not sure if luxury means anything anymore. The real crisis for the luxury auto brands will be if their buyers realize that.

    Jack Baruth made a great point recently that truly wealthy people see through the badges and buy, for example, loaded GMC Yukons or Priuses, while the sales of the equivalent Cadillacs and Lexuses cars go to less wealthy, but more image conscious buyers. However, since the wealthiest people are buying Yukons and Priuses that makes them more of a status symbol than their more expensive equivalents.

    The advantage BMW and Mercedes have is that they do not have less expensive mainstream brands that their less badge conscious customers can turn to. The risk that they face that they themselves will become less expensive mainstream brands, especially with the lower end front wheel drive cars that both intend to introduce in the US.

    By the way, speaking of mainstream brands, congratulations to Hyundai/Kia for topping 1,000,000 sold in the US for the first time ever. The key measure for any automaker (or any company for that matter) is profit, not volume, but if we are going to focus on volume then both Mercedes and BMW, as brands, were outsold by Subaru and Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      BMW has Mini as an entry-level brand

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      How about luxury cargo vans?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      While it is true that a loaded Camcordnata has 90% of the toys of any of the entry level Germans, all it takes is a ride around the block to see the difference between them. You would have to be deaf, dumb, blind and under aneasthetic to not notice the difference in ride and overall feel. Now it may be that you don’t CARE about the difference, but that does not mean it is not there.

      I tend to think of BMW and MB as relatively mainstream brands. They just have a range that starts a bit higher and goes much higher than the others. Nothing particularly “luxurious” about my 3-series wagon, and in the world of $30K Camrys and $50K Tahoes and pickups it was not all that expensive, either.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Yes yes yes, we are enthusiasts. We know the difference. It has to be rear wheel drive, with a manual transmission, or at least a good dual clutch system. The vast majority of BMW and Mercedes buyers aren’t enthusiasts. They don’t even know their cars are RWD, and might prefer the more relaxed driving style of a Camcordnata, if not for the badge.

        A BMW 3 series wagon is an awesome car – that is expensive to build and nobody buys (or leases). A volume and profit chaser like BMW can’t worry about it. It needs to worry about X-3 and X-5 sales.

        And the difference between a Camcordnata and a low end BMW or Mercedes will go away as BMW and Mercedes chase volume and profits by using FWD transverse engine platforms for their lower end models, as both have announced, and Mercedes already does in Europe.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        You raise a good point with $50K SUVs. Should GMC be considered a luxury brand? I don’t think you can get one for much less than $30K. If so it beat all of the other luxury brands. And probably made more profit on the sales also.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @racer-esq.

        More than 50% of 3-series sales are wagons. And the 3-series is BMWs bread and butter, even here in the States. BMW is a GLOBAL company don’t forget. Just because most Americans are irrational does not mean everyone is. I am thankful that they are nice enough to offer the wagon here for those few of us with a clue.

        I think they are perfectly capable of making a FWD BMW that still feels like a BMW. They already do, the MINI. There is room in the range for the 1-series to go FWD and still be a BMW, the current 1-series is too close to the 3-series in both size and price. FWD is simply the right answer for small cars.

        And even the non-enthusiasts I have had in my car can tell the difference in feel, even from the passenger seat.

        The whole GMC thing baffles me. I just can’t wrap my head around why anyone would pay more for a GMC than for the absolutely identical but for badges and grilles Chevy version. I can’t believe for a second that the dealers are any different.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Toyota/Subaru is proving that it is possible to build a ~2,600 pound sub-$25,000 rwd car. I’ve driven a Mini S, and actually considered it for a commuter car, but was completely underwhelmed compared to the hype. BMW doesn’t have any magic good driving dust, it just stuck to RWD while the US and Japanese companies went FWD for their mainstream models in the 1980s.

        I think BMW is just going FWD to increase profits, and I think that it will work very well for BMW because I doubt many buyers will care. I will just see the FWD BMWs as overpriced Camcordnatas with BMW logos, but I think that’s what the market wants.

        Luckily I have the upcoming FT-86 and updated 270 HP + Genesis Coupe turbo.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        All the BMW posers will really start coming out of the woodwork once they start selling FWD platforms. All the douches will be putting wings and fart cans on them. I cannot wait.

        This is going to be the equivalent of the Fender guitars shipping production over to Japan in the 70s (but at least it was not China!).

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I just can’t wrap my head around why anyone would pay more for a GMC than for the absolutely identical but for badges and grilles Chevy version.

    I prefer my vehicles to be certified professional-grade.

    Seriously though, I’ve always been fond of GMC’s styling, but hardly Chevy’s. Compare the Sierra and Silverado, Acadia and Traverse, Terrain and Equinox….the GMCs are slightly more conservative, and to me more mature.

    Plus Chevys are for losers…..

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      Ummmmm. If you paid $31,000, for your GMC, and your neighbor bought the NEAR IDENTICAL vehicle, with the SAME equipment, the SAME color, made on the SAME lone in the SAME factory by the SAME workers, and he only paid $28,000….tell me again: Who is the loser?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        The price difference between two equivalent GMC and Chevy trucks is nowhere near $3K. I’ve checked this, and the difference in price is closer to $300. GMC’s come with a lot more standard equipment than the Chevy, so it is probably even possible to get a better deal on a GMC if there are some options you really don’t care about, but come included with packages on the Chevy to get the options you want.


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