AN: BMW and Mercedes Are Childish

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • 30-mile fetch 30-mile fetch on Jan 06, 2012

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

  • GS650G GS650G on Jan 06, 2012

    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.

  • Racer-esq. Racer-esq. on Jan 06, 2012

    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.

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    • Dynasty Dynasty on Jan 06, 2012

      @krhodes1 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!).

  • Dave M. Dave M. on Jan 06, 2012
    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.....
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    • Dynasty Dynasty on Jan 06, 2012

      @Mark MacInnis 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.