BMW's 3-Series Is America's Best-Selling Premium Vehicle Five Years Running

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
bmw s 3 series is america s best selling premium vehicle five years running

In 2014, for the fifth consecutive year, the BMW 3-Series was America’s top-selling premium brand vehicle.

And now for the qualifying statements.

The “car” that topped the premium brand leaderboard in 2014 was the 3-Series and 4-Series. That’s the way BMW USA chose to release their sales figures when the 3-Series nameplate divested itself of key assets in the fall of 2013. In a sense then, this is the way it’s always been, since the 4-Series used to be part of the 3-Series family.

• 3-Series hasn’t been outsold in premium category since 2009

• 3-Series/4-Series generate four out of every ten U.S. BMW sales

• 3-Series/4-Series was America’s 16th-best-selling car in 2014

However, the 4-Series lineup has expanded to include very 3-Series-like cars like the 4-Series Gran Coupe even as the 3-Series lineup expanded to include not just a sedan and a wagon but also a hatchback, the 3-Series Gran Turismo.

Should the breadth of the 3-Series/4-Series lineup limit the praise owed to BMW and its best seller status, in the sense that it’s not a fair fight? Or should BMW be lauded for turning the 3-Series into an increasingly popular sub-brand of its own that leaps tall buildings, bursts through bank vault doors, and tramples the competition as though they’re nothing more than forgettable pests?

Regardless, 3-Series sedans account for 65% of the total 3-Series/4-Series inventory currently listed on Together, the sedan and the other bodystyles that have traditionally made up the 3-Series nameplate – coupe, convertible, wagon – account for 88% of all 3-Series/4-Series inventory. If we applied that 88% figure to the tandem’s U.S. sales in 2014, the resulting 125,000 sales (down from the actual 142,232 total) would still be more than enough for the 3-Series in its traditional form to have ended 2014 as America’s top-selling premium brand automobile.

The second-ranked “luxury” car in America wasn’t a passenger car at all. The Lexus RX, America’s top-selling luxury utility vehicle was the most recent vehicle to unseat the 3-Series from top dog status. RX sales were up 3% to 107,490 sales.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class volume, downgraded because of a generational change, was down 15% to 75,065 units. The Lexus ES was down by a scant 73 units to 72,508 U.S. sales in 2014. Mercedes-Benz E-Class sales – sedan, wagon, coupe, convertible – slid 5% to 66,400 units.

Combined, these five top sellers generated 2.8% of America’s new vehicle volume in 2014. The 3-Series/4-Series ranked 32nd in the overall standings, just behind the Toyota Highlander and Kia Soul and just ahead of the Chevrolet Impala and Nissan Versa. The fifth-ranked E-Class was America’s 73rd-best-selling vehicle overall, just behind the Kia Forte and Toyota Avalon; just ahead of the Acura MDX and Dodge Durango.

Back on the subject of the 3-Series/4-Series, sales increased in 2014 in each month after an eight-month streak to end 2013. Total 3-Series/4-Series sales in 2014 reached the highest level since 2007, when 142,490 were sold. The 3-Series/4-Series accounted for 42% of all BMW brand volume in 2014, up from 39% in 2013 as the 3er/4er jumped 19% and brand-wide volume rose 10%.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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  • 05lgt 05lgt on Jan 28, 2015

    If Lexus released the RX and ES numbers as one combined line, would it be more or less varied than the 3/4 best selling car? Either they're both "Camry's with badges" or BMW has the #1 spot. Can't have both. Pick.

  • Thornmark Thornmark on Jan 29, 2015

    Do Impala sales still fail to break out the old fleet only Impala Limited and new retail/fleet models? If so, the failure to do so seems intended to mask a larger failure.

  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.
  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...
  • Greg Add me to the list: 2017 Sorento EX AWD w/2.0 Turbo GDI 68K miles. Changed oil religiously with only synthetic. Checked oil level before a rare long road trip and Ievel was at least 2 quarts down. That was less than 6 months after the last oil change. I'm now adding a quart of oil every 1000 miles and checking every 500 miles because I read reports that the oil usage gets worse. Too bad, really like the 2023 Tuscon. But I have not seen Hyundai/Kia doing anything new in terms of engine development. Therefore, I have to suspect that I will ony become a victim of a fatally flawed engine development program if I were to a purchase another Kia/Hyundai.