By on March 22, 2011

Think BMW sells a lot of cars in the US? The German automaker may have registered nearly 20,000 “sales” in the US last month, but according to the analysts at Polk, over 50 percent of its “sales” in 2010 were actually leases. No wonder BMW’s best-seller, the Dreier (3 Series), occupies a nearly unique position on the price-volume frontier. And apparently BMW will continue to look to non-sales for future sales growth, as Automotive News [sub] reports the firm has launched a new car-sharing joint venture in Europe aimed at bringing in a million new customers by 2020. The pitch: sleek new Bavarian metal, as well as the ability to pick up and drop off vehicles anywhere, thanks to smartphone vehicle tracking. But the biggest pitch, say BMW sources, is to people who would never buy a new BMW… or even lease one. And they’re not just talking about poor folks either…

According to BMW sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson, the joint venture with German car rental giant Sixt isn’t so much about gaining new sales but about reaching urban consumers who are no longer choosing to own an automobile. In short, we’re looking at the endgame for automakers in mature markets: whereas leases are a good way to bring more buyers into the luxury brand they desire, this is about reaching well-off customers who simply are no longer interested in owning cars for a number of financial, environmental, and congestion-related reasons. BMW now joins Peugeot and Daimler in offering car-sharing programs in Europe, as consultants Frost & Sullivan project that by 2016, some 5.5 million Europeans and 4.4 million North Americans will use car sharing programs. At least in the dense urban cities of the developed world, car ownership is starting to sound so last century…

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18 Comments on “BMW Seeks A Million New… Rentals?...”

  • avatar

    Which BMW is in the picture?  The two dark coloured cars are Minis, but I’m not sure which model the white BMW is.  Must be something I can’t buy over here.  Looks pretty cool.
    Back on topic – I once considered a car sharing program,  but it’s cheaper to own a beater.  However, if I got to choose from some very nice cars, and had easy access to suitable roads, that would made the car sharing program much more valuable.

  • avatar

    Who in their right mind would think that the majority of BMWs “sold” nowadays were actually being bought?  I’m surprised the number is closer to 50%. Good grief, even 60-70% of Volvos sold are leased according to the local dealer.

  • avatar

    Who would have thought 25 years ago that someday BMWs would be cars for people who have an irrational hatred of cars?

    I agree with CraigSu about the surprise being that BMW sells close to half of their cars. Hell, they lease a meaningful percentage of their CPO cars, and they’re ready for the recyclers when the term ends.

    • 0 avatar

      One need not have an irrational hatred of cars to find oneself in a position or location where owning one makes little or no sense. I have a friend who’s no more or less gearhead than I am. He’s currently living in London. And does not and would not try to own a car in that traffic and fee hellhole. But a car share system might come in handy for him on occasion.

    • 0 avatar

      I lived in Manhattan for years. I stored one car in Virginia and rented whenever I needed one to escape the squalor. How does a car share work? Is there a car that you actually pay for and can’t use on holiday weekends because everyone else wants it to, or are there a pool of cars that will all be booked when it is a holiday weekend and all share owners want to use one?

    • 0 avatar

      I live in Manhattan and have had Zipcar card for over 4 years.  The first two years it was our only source for cars including trip rentals, we averaged $500/mo.  Our leased and garaged Merc prior to that averaged $900/mo.  The real key is that the cars have parking spaces, so you just drop it off there and walk away.  Priceless, honestly. Also the diversity of cars at your disposal to transport people, stuff, or get a Mini for a work trip on “their” dime.

  • avatar

    I nearly convinced myself to buy a CPO 328i, despite the lack of a dipstick, spare tire, real leather seats or a listenable and upgradable-without-mass reprogramming sound system, but then it hit me.  The combination of free maintenance but only when the computer says it’s needed means that the car very likely went 20,000 miles on its original oil  At that point, “long-term ownership” seemed like a bad idea.  Too bad, because I absolutely loved the brief experience driving one.

    • 0 avatar

      That is probably a misconception. My 335d has its 1st schedule maintenance last week @ 11,000 miles & the computer notifies the dealership on behalf on me.  My 335d has dipstick.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      In Europe, there’s no free maintenance and they still do 30,000km maintenance intervals. Some VWs have a 60,000km oil change interval…

  • avatar
    Ken Elias

    I think this is an effort to develop car sharing mostly for its upcoming line of i Series vehicles, starting with the i3.  It’s a car that only works in dense urban environments and is likely going to be too expensive relative to its performance for typical car buyers that have other options – meaning the ownership economics simply don’t work.  But in a rental/share system, ownership costs are less apparent to the multitude of users on a single vehicle – offset by the costs of running a rental/share system.  Hence, it needs a volume network to make sense and thus BMW is going down this route for this vehicle.
    China is also a natural market for car sharing as well.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Car sharing makes a lot of sense for people who live and work in urban environments. Actually owning a car in the big cities is a hassle and a massive expensive. Having access to a car when you want or need one is what car sharing is all about and it is the smart way to go for such people. Who would really want to own a car if they lived and worked in New York or London?

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Car sharing makes enormous sense in big cities. Monthly parking in NYC easily sets you back $400 per month, and if you want to use your car more than three times, then they charge you for that. Add in tips to the valet, and it’s like making two car payments per month.
    So yeah, going for the “car sharing” market is a no-brainer.

  • avatar

    There is a great car sharing mechanism already. It’s called taxi.

  • avatar

    I wonder what the market is for a 2 year old BMW 3 series with apparently half of all them coming back on lease.  The average price for my region on autotrader was about 35K.  At those prices leasing is actually cheaper which is I guess why BMW is pushing that angle.  The payments alone based on a 20% down is about even with a lease and that throws almost 3-4k more down that would probably pay the first year of the lease.

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