By on April 30, 2010

You can already buy a BMW 3-Series in sedan, coupe, station wagon and X3 “cute-ute” bodystyles, and for some automakers that might be enough. For niche-crazed BMW though, it’s just the beginning. A 3-Series GT is planned in the mold of the 5-Series GT, as a midway-point between the coupe, sedan and station wagon versions. You know, in case you can’t decide which you want. “This has never existed!” screamed Autobild… back in 2008. Of course, now it does exist in the form of the 5-series GT, which could actually end up replacing the 5-series wagon in the US market. And as the march of the niche vehicles rolls onward, there’s one more segment that the 3-series architecture still hasn’t capitalized on: the jacked-up midway point between coupe and SUV. That’s right babies, the X4.

But don’t blame BMW for considering a baby X6, which will likely resemble a jacked-up, slightly coupe-ier version of the 3er GT. After all, the Bavarians have sold over 80k X6s since launch, or twice the projected volume.That, BMW sources tell Autocar, makes an X4 far more likely to happen:

We haven’t made any firm decision. However, the X6’s success shows there is a continued demand for sporty off-roaders.

Of course, the relatively small difference between the current 1-series and the 3-series makes the niche spacing even more of a tricky task. Seriously, what are the differences between buyers of an X1, a 3er GT, an X4, and a 3er Wagon? Do we need to start making up Venn diagrams of these buyers’ priorities? Or is BMW trying to prove a kind of automotive Zeno’s paradox, in which niches can be infinitely subdivided? Where is the focus?

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17 Comments on “The Ultimate Niche Machine: BMW Considering X4...”

  • avatar

    When will the madness end?

    • 0 avatar

      When people stop buying this stuff.

      I have to say that, after seeing a 5GT and X6 in person, they’re good looking (in the case of the 5) or at least striking (the X6). I could go for the 5GT as a sort-of (way) up-market version of my Saab 9-3SE. I don’t think I’d park five trees in the back like I did with the Saab, but I probably could. Proper hatchbacks (as opposed to wagons) are nice that way.

      Considering that the 3 and 5 Touring never really sold well here, despite being priced more or less on top of their sedan equivalents, you can’t really blame BMW for trying.

  • avatar

    You know…back in the day of my E30 and then E36, I was horribly, madly in love with BMW (blame it on our landlord in Germany that took me for a ride in his old 2000). But anymore…not so much. In their quest to fill voids that should best be left unfilled, they’ve pretty much lost me forever…and the Bangle years didn’t help, either.

    • 0 avatar

      Obviously, I’m not the only one permanently disillusioned by BMW. I’ve had both an E30 325is and an E36 M3 – and when the E46 came out even slightly bigger and more plush, I was lost.

      They used to be “The Ultimate Driving Machine”. Now they’re, “The Lexus with Handling”.

  • avatar

    First thing that came to mind when I saw this mutant thing was Nissan Juke…

  • avatar

    “Where is the focus?”

    Uh, you want them to start selling Fords, too? Jeesh!

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, the Focus was the first thing I thought of when I saw this. They offered the first gen in 3 door, 4 door, 5 door and wagon variations. I could barely tell the difference between the 5-door and wagon, and apparently neither could anyone else. Funny thing is instead of picking one to go with, they ditched both body styles.

      I’m all for variety, but sometimes it gets out of hand.

  • avatar

    Ok, ad nauseum…

    BMW is competing against itself with all these models. BMW will LOSE MONEY by having a customer who has to choose between a 3-wagon, 3 GT, X1, X3 or X4. These models cost $$$$ to develop and BMW won’t make their money back when they give you 5 (5?!) options (meaning 5 development budgets spent) for the same load-hauling purpose. What is wrong with these people?

    Please Audi, don’t be the fool who follows.

  • avatar

    BMW seems to be able to get away with many cars and all from similar configuration. Even back in the days of 3 series, 320, 318, 323, 325, 328, 330.

  • avatar

    +1 psarhjinian

    After reading the article and the comments, it made me rage hard enough to respond. Come now, you should all know by now that the 5 series wagon is already DEAD here in the states.

    We don’t like wagons. Hell, even Volvo’s ditching their iconic wagons, starting with the V70.

    “America hates wagons.” However, we like pseudo-SUVs so the move towards these monstrosities will work just fine for both Volvo and BMW. The V70 was phased out in favor of… the XC70. LOL. It’s the latest craze and the market demands them.

    BMW is synonymous with style and luxury, not outright performance or catering to the enthusiast as many seem to be inclined to believe. If that truly were the case, anyone want to tell me why they won’t bring the 320si here? 4 cylinders here obviously doesn’t sit well with the majority of luxury buyers, why else would people hate on the TSX and A3/A4 for not being “true” luxury cars? Pony up for that 6 pot! It’s the American way.

    Brand dilution? HAH. There won’t BE a brand if you can’t make money.

  • avatar

    I know most of the comments are negative but I really like the style and shape of the vehicle. It’s got some great lines and if the interior is well done without the typical dour space it would be well positioned against the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza WRX as a premium offering.

    Just for the record, I love it.

  • avatar

    The 5 GT isn’t that bad. The proportions are perfect, unlike the awkward X6.

    But I have to wonder, how many more markets and niches will they try to fill? Will we see BMW pickups? How about BMW cute cars that compete with the Nissan Cube and Kia Soul?

    Will they really lose money if they make great sport coupes and sedans only?

  • avatar

    I’m gonna wait for the 3.14

  • avatar

    For the record, I think the 3GT looks good, too: I already like the 5GT, and loved the X1 when I saw it at BMW Weld over the holidays.

    I love choice. While I’m sure some lament the lack of a “pure” hatch, I could care less: having never needed a hatch or wagon in 16 years of driving, I’m happy choosing between the current offerings.

    But if Bavarians were to next add hatches (or the rarely whispered 4×4 rolltop convertible phantom-hatch with both hill climb and track day packages), I wouldn’t mind that, either. Choice, people: choice – buy what you want, leave the rest.

  • avatar

    There’s not really any question of self-sales cannibalization.

    As long as the customer walks out the door with the keys to one of your cars, that’s one more for you, and one less for the other guy.

    A lot of people would love to get a 1-series, but it’s too small.

    Too small, you say? May I interest you in a 3-series?

    Too low.

    What about an X1?

    Perfect. Where do I sign?

    There are always people who fall in-between the buyer demographic groups… and covering all your bases means these buyers aren’t going to automatically go next door to Audi.

    BMW’s incredible niche fetish is also its way of making up for the fact that it doesn’t have a hell of a lot of platforms and brands to play around with, not like other automakers. Thus, it needs to capitalize on what it has to the fullest extent. To our eyes, it seems like BMW is making a zillion models. In reality, it’s still making cars on just two or three platforms (the new 5 is on a 7 platform) with the same engines… lots of cars… which means bigger sales volume. And while an X4 might eat into 10% of X1 sales on one side and 10% of X3 sales on the other, but if it takes away 20% of Q5 and GLK sales while doing so, it’s worth doing for BMW.

    In the end, the madness ends when the selling stops. And the selling just never stops.

  • avatar

    Audi doesn’t need to follow BMW down this insane path. They can leave that sort of nonsense to the umpteen other VW group brands.

    This is the prime disadvantage to being a complete full-line single brand. BMW and Mercedes have to try to do anything and everything – SUCoupeLuxurySportHatchWagon4x4Convertibles are probably next.

    Audi can concentrate on the core products they do so well, and expand only when and where they feel the need to. And make R8s.

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