By on April 8, 2011


Remember carmageddon? When the world came to an end? When luxury was definitely not PC? When we would only drive small cars or none at all, forever and ever? For BMW, it’s just like a bad dream. Munich’s BMW Group sold more vehicles in March than ever before in any month of the company’s storied history, the company tells us in an email. BMW sold a total of 165,842 BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce in March, 17 percent over March in the prior year. BMW exceeded even its own pre-crisis sales high of 152,721 vehicles, recorded in December 2007. Who’s buying all those cars?

Americans (of all stripes) have a new-found appetite for the white-blue roundel. Sales in the Americas rose 18.6 percent to 32,020 units. Europe was steady, showing a gain of 7.8 percent to 93,540 units. The true growth comes from Asia (and we all know what that means), which was up 52 percent to 35,048 units.

As the table below shows, BMW is doing well in all segments – if we overlook the slight weakness with Husqvarna sewing machines motorcycles. And look at those Rollers! They sold in three months what changed hands during a whole year in the bad old days.

Also, the numbers bode well for Daimler and Audi. They tend to move in a pack.

  March 2011 Change YTD Change
BMW Group
165,842 +17.0% 382,758 +21.3%
BMW 134,892 +14.6% 321,175 +20.8%
MINI 30,689 +28.5% 60,860 +22.6%
Rolls-Royce Motor
261 +108.8% 723 +159.1%
11,675 +1.2% 23,109 +10.9%
676 -17.0% 1,940 +18.3%
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16 Comments on “The Joy: BMW On A High...”

  • avatar

    Who is buying them?  The same class of people that bought them 100 years ago during the first guilded age.  The wealthy tend to remain insulated from economic downturns.

    • 0 avatar

      Most wealthy people don’t buy BMWs. It’s those who wish to be wealthy and have income high enough to be able to lease them.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      guilded would be derived from guild an association of men in a certain trade.
      I think you meant gilded which means cover with gold. The term Gilded Age refers to the era of American History between the end of Reconstruction and World War One, when the first great industrial fortunes were established.

  • avatar

    Good article. Now onto a unrelated issue, you posted in a entry yesterday (who benefits from the Japanese tragedy) this :
    but parts of the “Buy American” contingent are secretly high-fifing when bad news from Japan is on TV or on the net.
    This is unsubstantiated and offensive. Please try and restrain your bias – we all have bias, but try and keep it in check.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    The S1000RR is a killer bike and is priced within the competition, and the K1600GT/GTL are poised to annihilate the Gold Wing, BMW Motorrad has been interesting lately.

    • 0 avatar

      Proof that I’ve become an old fart: They may be motorcycles, but they sure aren’t BMW’s.  Chain drive?  Styling out of a Japanese anime nightmare?  Makes me glad I’ve stayed loyal to my Hinckley Triumphs.

  • avatar

    Ghost FTW

  • avatar

    What would interest me is how many of these cars are leased vs actually bought. Last time I remember it was 50/50. Of course in US market.

  • avatar

    I don’t know who is buying BMWs, but it isn’t just wealthy people because I know of quite a few who are teetering on bankruptsy, but unwilling to face their new economic reality when choosing their auto lifestyle statement. To many BMW drivers, they seem ready to drive to the poor house as long as they can do it in their BMW.

    It is a matter of priorities. A lot of folks who do not have the economic ability to drive one, are. Living for today, I guess.

    So please, no obsolete historic tripe about the supposed Gilded Age Robber Barons. Companies like BMW couldn’t exist if they depended on such a small market. Today is the 21st Century, not the 19th, and Scrooge was a fictional character.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I think both VanillaDude and UberMensch are correct.  Though they may not have names like Carnegie or Rockefeller or otherwise embody Gilded Age stereotypes, there are lots and lots of very wealthy people who are insulated from the harsher aspects of the economic realities and vicissitudes that the unwashed masses must contend with and, for whom, spending $40,000 – $100,000 or more on a rapidly depreciating and not especially reliable or durable asset (albeit a fine driving and luxurious one) is no big thing.  They may have wanted lay lower during the darkest depths of the recession a couple years back, but probably don’t feel as much societal pressure to do so at this point.  (Note: wealth does not make them in any way bad people or “Scrooges.” In any class, race, ethnicity, religion, political party, gender, or type of music, there are good and there are bad members and there is a lot of in-between). At the same time, society has become ever more fixated on the “luxury lifestyle” and an awful lot of people in the “unwashed masses” (for example, my brother/sister in law who live with their son in my wife’s parents’ basement while they “save up” to buy their own place, but who obsess about Tag Heuer watches and other various luxury accoutrements) want their own piece of that particular “pie.  The advent of leasing has allowed these people to indulge their “luxury lifestyle” fantasies in the automotive market, just as the advent of crazy mortgages allowed them to indulge it on the housing side (and we all know how that ended).  Hence, the number of BMW drivers with lease payments that eat up a ridiculously high amount of their take home pay (or driving used versions whose maintenance and repair costs do the same thing).  Ironically, and despite the overall increase in reliability/durability experienced with respect to automobiles in the last decades, it used to be that many luxury vehicles (I’m thinking M-B and Porsche — although, back then, Porsches weren’t luxury vehicles; now, for them to be seen as desirable by many, they kind of are and kind of need to be) were built to last in a way that is simply not the case now.  Luxury itself seems to have become a more ephemeral concept.  In other words, assuming a desire for long-term ownership, durability and reliability, I think it may have made a lot more sense to spend $115,000 in today’s dollars on a new W126SEL in 1990 (back when Benzes were in fact less attainable to the unwashed masses) than it does to spend a similar amount on 7-series or S-Class today, especially in light of the alternatives that were available then compared to now. 

    • 0 avatar

      You might want to check your facts on the realities of our economy.  A Nobel prize winning economist has correctly likened it to the guilded age and in many ways it is worse.  The gap between the top 1% and the rest is enourmous now.  Many are even returning to enormous mansions staffed by hundreds of servants.

      Obviously in this age of easy credit there will be lots of folks living outside of there means, but the reality is that a great percentage of the buyers CAN afford them and have nothing to worry about.

      • 0 avatar

        Krugman is a Nobel prize winning economist, and a utter boob which is proof that Nobels are not given out based on intelligence or accuracy.

        Since you are probably not 200 years old, your knowledge of the Gilded Age would not be based on primary sources. For you to make the erroneous claim that we are living in such an age today, and that it could actually be worse than the so-called Gilded Age, demonstrates a lack of balance in your understanding.

        Your statement that a great percentage of American drivers drive BMWs counters your Gilded Age argument.

        There are no boogeymen or boogeywomen eating your lunch. No one likes spoiled ham.

  • avatar

    The only Bimmer I would dare own would be an older 7er with because it seems at least slightly insulated from the rampant douchebaggery placing image over substance that permeates (at least in my area) the BMW ownership roster.

  • avatar

    Good on BMW.  I’m with the Doc up there, not much I wouldn’t do for the new sport bike, and I’m looking at getting a BMW before the year is up.  Not new, though…just need to find the right E46 TiAg over Imola or Cinnamon SMGII.  Trying to convince the girl to go for a 3er, but she is just about dead set on an SUV, and the X is out of her range.

  • avatar

    There are not nearly enough “rich” people to explain the numbers, especially when you add other expensive brands.  People once paid cash.  Then they made a solid down-payment and paid a small amount over 36 months.  Now people lease or put little down on long loans and pay far more for their vehicle than is economically wise.  Lots of people of ordinary means don’t like to be thought of as being of ordinary means, and so they buy a 3-series, C-class, A4, Lexus IS or Infiniti G, or any of the smaller SUVs by the same makers.  Even the Mini is a great car for these people, many of whom are young and who are not saving any money.
    It’s just like the housing bubble but hasn’t popped.  Current car prices are probably not sustainable.  By the way, many of the actual rich people I know are smarter with their money, and buy CPO versions of these brands and drive them into the ground.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to work at a BMW dealership, and would often tell people that CPO is the way to go if you wanted a BMW.  Unless you just HAVE to HAVE a [insert current year], there wasn’t any reason not to go Certified.  You get the warranty and someone else ate the larger depriciation.

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