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 Cars.com. 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 GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.
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