By on July 18, 2016

BMW 2-Series Coupe red

Forget last year’s record sales achievements in BMW USA’s showrooms. Through the first six months of 2016, sales at the BMW Group’s BMW brand are down 9 percent in the United States, a first-half pace which suggests BMW sales will fall to a three-year low even as the overall new vehicle market continues to grow.

Not only is BMW’s car division off last year’s pace by more than 20,000 sales, or 18 percent, the brand’s three most costly utility vehicles — X4, X5, X6 — are down 22 percent. Yes, the overall car market is fading, but BMW’s 22-percent car decline is far worse than the U.S. auto industry’s 8-percent drop in car sales. And the 24-percent decrease in, for instance, sales of the BMW X5 stands in stark contrast to the 8-percent increase in the overall SUV/crossover market.

There are nevertheless bright lights in the BMW lineup.

Among passenger cars, the one car that most clearly exemplifies BMW’s old Ultimate Driving Machine credo, the 2 Series, is the BMW car that’s growing fastest. By far.

Among crossovers, the BMW which most flies in the face of everything the BMW cognoscenti value about BMW, the X1, is the BMW SAV division’s fastest-growing vehicle. By far.

ENTRY-LEVEL JOBS
Combined U.S. sales of the BMW 2 Series and BMW X1 are up 88 percent through the first six months of 2016. One year ago, they earned less than 7 percent of BMW USA’s volume. This year, the 2 Series and X1 produce nearly 14 percent of BMW’s U.S. sales.

The 2 Series’ success comes as the majority of BMW’s vast car lineup fades. Aside from the newly launched sixth-generation 7 Series (up 7 percent to 5,605 units year-to-date), the 2 Series is the exception to the declining car rule in BMW’s showrooms. 3, 4, 5, 6, i3, i8, and Z4 volume is collectively down 24 percent, a significant loss worth 24,163 sales.

The 2 Series, however, is on pace for 22,000 sales in 2016 thanks to a 70-percent year-over-year increase through six months. The 2 Series and its 1 Series predecessor averaged 10,000 sales between 2008 and 2015 and peaked just north of 13,000 sales in 2010.

These aren’t inconsequential numbers. The 2 Series is now outselling the Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, and Nissan 370Z combined; outsold the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R combined in June; and easily outperformed the combined best efforts of the Alfa Romeo 4C, Audi TT, BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK, and Porsche Boxster/Cayman in the first-half of 2016.

Is the 2 Series the new 3 Series? Not quite. Though total 3 Series/4 Series volume is down 23 percent this year, the 2 Series’ bigger brethren are still outselling the 2 Series by nearly six-to-one. But the 2 Series is the rightful successor to the 3 Series of the ’80s and ’90s. While demand for more costly BMW cars fade, demand for this most BMW-esque of current BMWs is at an all-time high.

2016 BMW X1 white

MARKS THE SPOT
You still won’t be shocked to discover that BMW USA nevertheless sells more X1s than 2 Series coupes and convertibles. Based on a front-wheel-drive architecture shared with BMW’s Mini brand, the second-generation BMW X1 will, at its current rate of growth, report record annual U.S. sales volume by year’s end.

A front-wheel-drive BMW isn’t half as heretical to the typical X1 consumer as it is to the BMW aficionado who memorized the gear ratios of the E30 318i. Remember the story in 2010 that said the overwhelming majority of 1 Series owners didn’t know their car was driven from the rear? It seems highly unlikely that those buyers will care about the origins of their vehicle’s architecture, particularly when the overwhelming majority of X1 buyers opt for four driven wheels.

Compared with the first-half of 2015, X1 sales in 2016 have more than doubled to 12,139 units. Although the X4, X5, and X6 are all failing to match last year’s volume, the X1 isn’t alone in its BMW SAV gains. The BMW X3 has produce a substantial 49-percent gain and is likely to end the year with its highest-ever U.S. sales output.

DIFFERENT STROKES
Other than base prices, which differ by only $50, the BMW 2 Series and BMW X1 are strikingly different vehicles. One represents the BMW of the past, a BMW focused on driving and dynamics and performance. The other is at the heart of BMW’s future: affordable practicality with enough BMW trappings and suggestions of performance to bring together a buyer’s BMW’s aspirations with his need of useable space.

Outside of these two models, BMW USA lost 25,000 sales in the first-half of 2016.

The 2 Series and X1, the most BMW-like and least BMW-like models in the BMW brand’s lineup and the two BMWs with the lowest base prices, added 10,000 sales.

[Images: BMW USA]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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65 Comments on “While BMW USA Sales Fade, the Most and Least BMW-like Models Are Bright Spots...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    The *new* X1 sells because it is a small, most affordable (ahem, cough…cough…to some folks, not me) SUV with a BMW Roundel on it. Not that 95% of the people buying it know what “Roundel” means, but image sells. I test drove the outgoing variant (rear-wheel drive) and my wife and I loved it, but didn’t have the scratch to buy it.

    Now an entry-level 2-series pared down to the minimum with a manual would get me as close to my 2002, 318i and 325is as possible today (and probably as close to the “BMW Driving Experience” I most associate with my once-beloved marque). But a recent adoption and funding my wife’s degree precludes any thought of that for the next 10 or so years. it gives me hope that BMW won’t completely abandon their history and the enthusiast driver…but just barely.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Sounds like you have your priorities on right.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Mama

        threeer – I’m beyond stoked upon seeing a first post that’s both insightful and inspirational. As VoGo states, your priorities are solid. Your niece will likely someday commute to high school in a hand-me-down Z3 I’d wager.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Z3s are cheeeap, but I thought it was brought up once there is something with body rigidity which makes them unsafe in crashes which the Z4 corrected.

        • 0 avatar
          threeer

          PSYM…thanks. It hasn’t been easy for us as the dynamics are, um, unique as to the adoption and the status of the birth-mother (my sister-in-law). My (now) daughter would have to fight off my wife for the keys to a Z3, as that is one of my better half’s all-time favorites. As for the new kid in the house, at 10 years old she at least recognizes some cars and mentions them (Mustangs and Camaros…go figure). My 25-year old 1LT son still drives his 1997 Tercel around and couldn’t care less about cars in general, so I get a do-over with her when it comes to sharing my love of cars. We are placed in time and space for reasons, I suppose.

          Me? I’m still waiting to win a small lottery or have somebody surprise me with a GoFundMe page so I can quell my longing for an old Bimmer(did I mention the ’91 318i in Baltimore on CL? Oh, my heart!)!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Congrats on the adoption, I know this generally isn’t an easy process.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      In all fairness, the adoption and the degree sound like better and more-fulfilling places to spend money than a rapidly-depreciating Bimmer, nice as they are. Congratulations on the adoption.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Agreed to all, Kyree. The adoption was something we saw coming years ago, but circumstances kind of forced the decision right around Christmas. We thought we were empty-nesters (son flies the world as a C-17 pilot), but you know how to make God laugh…tell him your plans. Adopting a family member isn’t easy (financially, emotionally, you name it) but I wouldn’t change that she is ours for the world (10-year old niece having seen or have happen to her more than any grown person). And the degree has been a long-term dream/goal of the wife’s since forever. I’ll take both over any BMW, and that coming from a lifer Bimmer fan all the way back from my first ride as a child of 5 years old in our landlord’s white BMW 2000 back in 1975.

        Thanks for the kind words to all.

        Not that I’m still not day-dreaming of that 2 series (or a well-restored E30!) sitting in my garage, mind you.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      I would add the following for the X1 sales success:
      – It isn’t much smaller than the X3 but significantly more affordable
      – The Q3 is old and thirsty and the MB GLA doesn’t look like an SUV.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Ugh. I hate the Q3. Yes, it is on the old Mk.5/6 bones. The interior is lacklsuter for the price. And, you’re right, the GLA-Class looks more like a hatchback than an SUV, probably because of its lack of rear-quarter-panel windows.

        The X1 is the best vehicle in this segment, currently. The NX and RDX, though they are larger, compete with the X1 on price, and I think they’re good value, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Timothy Cain

        Valid criticism, @CarGuy. Nevertheless, the others aren’t hurting. The GLA is outselling the X1 and the Q3 has set or matched sales records in each of the last four months. Close sales race; interesting to watch. http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2016/07/usa-luxury-suv-crossover-sales-by-model-june-2016.html

    • 0 avatar
      Fuzzilina

      Um, want to afford a BMW? buy used. I have never bought any BMW new. I have bought two 3 series from dealers that were two years old, both with 53,000 miles on them (1994 325is and 2001 330cic). I paid half what they went for originally, and I never had any issues with them, didn’t have to spend any real money on them until they were over 10 years old. The 325is is still in my family, and I’m still driving the 15 year old convertible.

      • 0 avatar
        glwillia

        @Fuzzilina: True dat. I currently own an E39 and E46, and paid barely over $10k for both of them combined. Yeah, they need some work from time to time, but it’s pretty easy to DIY and Lemförder/Bosch/etc OES parts are relatively cheap online. Both have the M54B30 3.0L I6 that only really requires regular oil changes and occasional cooling system refreshes (which can be easily done in a couple of hours in my garage).

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    I was raised on old magazine articles about 90s era M3s and 540is . Few computers and even fewer cup holders, but they were RWD cars with stick shifts and souls.

    RIP, BMW. Your driving machines will be missed.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      How many have you owned (not magazines!)?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      A bit hyperbolic, no? The F30 3 series is pretty much the successor to the E39, with way better steering than that recirculating ball setup they had in the V8 models, and with the 340i, performance on the level of the E39 M5 with nearly double the gas mileage and a BMW appropriate I6….

      And the 2 series is closer to the 2002/E30 than nearly any post E30 3 series. OK, the 3/5/7 have grown a bit too much and the 5/7/X whatevers are a bit of a shame…. but with the 3 being sized to fit 4-5 adults and the 2 series matching the E46 3 series in literally every exterior dimension I think we can manage with what’s available. The M235i is on my short list of cars I can actually afford and would put up the $$$ for.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    I told the BMW forum guys the new X1 would be a hit. They were all dismissive of it but we leased the old X1 for 18 months and whilst fun to drive it was achingly small, the new one is a little lazier but is far, far more practical.

    In the end we went up to a X3 but the new X1 was far more useful than the old one.

  • avatar

    In a growing market, clearly they are losing to the competition.

    Be interesting to see numbers on who is eating their lunch.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      Mercedes.

      BTW this site is getting worse by the day. I hops about like a fucking kangaroo, you click a link and the page moves so now you’ve hit the wrong link, cue more hopping about.

      Jesus Mark, fix it. I honestly consider not coming here anymore ‘cos the site is just so diabolical.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      See GCBC post above. It’s Lexus for the win. Not even the new nose cone can slow down sales.

      • 0 avatar
        smartascii

        That’s because BMW is copying Lexus’s driving dynamics, which I’m sure is what the focus groups tell them to do, but if you’re going to buy a soft, numb car, wouldn’t you rather buy one that has good resale value and doesn’t require you to have a personal relationship with your service advisor?

  • avatar

    The answer to the question lies in the incentive spend of 2015 vs 2016 when BMW was trying to chase the volume crown.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Makes sense. The X1 and 2 series are brand new and relatively new, respectively. They are some of the least expensive BMW’s to lease and still retain the fun to drive abilities of BMW from the past. They still have the badge, which for many who don’t post here is more important than how it drives or which wheels are driven.

    The decline of the larger X’s is not surprising either if for no other reason than cost. We bought an off lease CPO X5 and it’s expensive to maintain even by BMW standards. The new X5’s just don’t make much sense, especially when dealers still act like they’re the hot sellers they were a few years ago.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    What about US sales of other VMW nameplates not called BMWs? Aren’t they down just as much if not more than the BMW label?

    • 0 avatar
      PennSt8

      Both Audi and MB posted monthly gains from the same time last year. That said, if you look at the sales numbers more closely you will find that the picture isn’t much better.

      BMW appears to be taking it on the chin due to product being near the end of its product lifecycle (Z4, 5 Series and X3). To top it off, X5s and X6s have horrible lease programs.

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        Uhhh.. Last time I looked, neither MB or Audi belonged to BMW. Is the so-called Best and Brightest becoming the Slowest and Stupidest?

        • 0 avatar
          PennSt8

          I believe that you misunderstood my post, which I’ll attempt to make clearer.

          Being BMW’s primary competition, I wanted to call to attention that neither Audi nor M-B is performing any better than BMW. Although, I am unfamiliar with the launch of the A4, sales are nothing to write home about (as of yet). The C-Class which is essentially all new, is down year-to-date.

          On another note, I pointed out abysmal X5 and X6 lease programs as I am sure that this is having an impact on overall sales.

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            I was considering BMW AG as a possible investment. Is it a possible turn around? May I have some help about recent sales of BMW, Mini, Rollers and BMW two wheelers in the US?

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      http://newsdog.today/a/article/57856fa276f3df13e9afbcb5/

      June 2016 BMW Group USA sales

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    After my experience with a used MY04 325i, and the expensive upkeep of two Minis, I’m casting my eye toward the Lexus brand. Used LS430 or 460 (ha! like I could afford the latter, even used!) or more realistically, the GS350 would meet my families needs.

    The LS430 would meet my old-school wants since I love RWD cars with V8s. One of my favorite cars of all time was a MY94 Buick Roadmaster.

  • avatar

    I’d “blame” the rise of alternatives like the Genesis brand, coupled with the public’s growing inability to accept repair bills from their troublesome-but-lovable BMW’s as being just part of the “owner experience” of driving troublesome-but-lovable BMW’s.

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      As a BMW owner, I gladly put up with my troublesome-but-lovable 2011 328. But now that it’s time for a new one, I realize that the current 3-series is no longer lovable, even in 340i/6-speed configuration (the only way to get AWD with your manual transmission), and if you want to get it optioned up, it’s nearly $60k. So, I’ll see what Alfa does with the Guilia or wait for Audi to bring a 6-speed A4 over. But BMW has lost me as a customer.

      • 0 avatar
        darex

        You sound like a prime candidate for a MINI Clubman S, to be honest. All versions of all MINIs can be had with manuals, and have mostly all the same options list to chose from as BMW models. F-series MINIs are very close to F-series BMWs, in terms of how they drive, and how they feel, and they share tons of software and wiring and parts. You might be pleasantly surprised!

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The Genesis brand’s microscopic numbers are unlikely to make much of an impact on BMW’s sales. They even have a cheap pony car to bolster their market appeal and no one is buying.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    How much of this year’s struggles are based on lease pull-aheads last year to make their record sales number? And how cyclical are BMW’s sales numbers? Do they have a great year every few years as leases end en masse?

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Maybe people are waking up to the fact BMW’s are not terribly well built cars, and no one wants to be seen in a car that everyone knows is marketed to people with a particular and deep form of insecurity. BMW’s (and Audi’s) commercials have become laughable.

    • 0 avatar
      Ltd1983

      I think there’s something to this. Also, while we’re not exactly at UK-levels of people hating displays of wealth, but it has become a bigger issue in the US during this slowed economy.

      I can easily afford a BMW/Mercedes/Audi, but personally I would be embarrassed to drive any of them, too “Look at Me!”.

      I have to interact face to face with my clients, who pay me directly. A larger, loaded car from a mainstream brand is less pompous, a better value proposition, and less likely to make my clients reconsider if they’re overpaying me…

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Kind of a crappy move to insult BMW owners (to include those on this site) don’t you think?

      I’ve had nothing but luck with all of my BMWs and they have been very rewarding cars, especially my M cars. But I’m sure I’m saying that because of my clouded memory and how insecure I am as a BMW owner.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        I stated a conjecture. If some take it as an insult, maybe it’s because the thought hit home. Certainly the sort of cars I choose to own, and my personality for choosing to own them, have not been immune to negativity on this site. It’s good you’ve enjoyed your beemer ownership.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        energetik, He’s right. BMW’s are too inconsistent vis a vis other luxury brands with regard to durability, repair frequency and out of warranty costs.

        I think brand loyalty is off on his other point, as BMW’s typically are great to drive compared to other makes that they compete with, but the difference isn’t a large as it once was.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Anther Issue BMW is facing, strongly related to the rise of CUVs and pickup trucks as the obvious GoTo choice for anyone wanting a new vehicle; is that while 30 years ago being the “Ultimate Driving Machine” meant it was a genuinely more practical choice on anything but straight, multi lane freeways. Today, even Pickups have largely caught up in practical driving dynamics, at the speeds one is allowed to drive in the US.

      Just as a rough estimate, in 1985 a pickup trucks comfortable speed range extended up to 65. While a BMWs was up to 95. Today, the pickup’s extend to 85, and the BMWs to 125. Which makes the BMW the practical choice in Germany and other choice parts of Europe, but much less so in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      tnk479

      @brandloyalty – all marketing is aimed at connecting with buyers on some emotional level and that is especially true of auto marketing. What about women who buy a VW Beetle because they think it’s “cute”? That’s vain. What about men who buy big trucks but never haul or tow anything? Are they addressing their deep insecurity too? What about old men who buy sports cars? Who are they kidding? For that matter, couldn’t we make light of the guy who buys a Camry or Accord “Sport”? Sport my ass – that’s pure marketing. I could go on. You’re being pretty judgy with that comment.

      Let me guess – you drive a Saab station wagon with a diesel and a stick, riiight?

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        That’s why I was careful to say BMW marketing targets one particular insecurity. I’m deeply insecure about having practical, versatile and efficient vehicles, so I buy the ones marketed to those personality failings. No, I don’t have a Saab, nor a Subaru.

        Question for you: When you see those commercials depicting BMW owners as smart, smug, uber-successful folks operating superior technology, do you get a rush of pleasure, or cringe? Like Audi’s “Vorsprung durch Technik”. A bit pretentious to present it in North America in German?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      What brand, automotive or not, doesn’t use marketing to play off of people’s insecurities? Seems silly to dump on BMW for cashing in on a basic tenet of marketing used by literally every brand in existence.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Why did you choose to bump the 2-Series against the 370Z, and the GT86 cars? The 370Z has been around for ages without and update and the GT86 cars are not even in the same category.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      It’s noteworthy that a trio of distinctly more affordable Japanese sports coupes/sports cars can’t sell as often as the premium German, just as its noteworthy that a mainstream German hatch performance duo didn’t keep up with the 2er, which is picking up the pace as it ages.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    The X1 is basically a Mini-derived FWD POS, now the 2, well that’s another story, as close to the iconic 318 you’re ever gonna get

  • avatar

    BMW has become GM. No one slags the Corvette because the Aveo is crap. Likewise, there are a definite number of badge buyers so the X1 is cheap to produce fodder, like the CLA. Mini for BMW money ? Win !

    Badge sells 90 % of these cars.

    My damn Caddy has a better steering rack and road feel (other than heft) compared to a 328 sport package I recently drove There are a lot of cars now that drive well….it isn’t the days of the E30 vs. the Olds Cutlass with uneven fire V-6.

    BMW will still make a few cars for “us”, if we custom order….the rest will just be cash gathering…

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      This is how it has been since the E36. Are you really going to sit here and tell me a non-sport package automatic 318i or 528i from the 90s was some kind of driving revelation? BMW and all of the luxury brands have peddled cars that are “less than” on the back of some defining icon. And that’s OK. Not everyone wants an E30 M3.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        For that matter, most of us can’t afford an E30 M3 now. Man, have those things skyrocketed in price.

        Ironically, I drove a 1988 528e (yes, the dreaded “eta”) for a week or so while I had some work done to my 1974 2002. While it certainly wasn’t fast (at least it was a manual!), I can remember instantly enjoying the ride and found myself hard-pressed to return the keys to the owner when the work was done to the ’02. I’ve driven numerous new(er) Bimmers and just can’t seem to get as excited about any of them as I do/did for the likes of the E30 and E28…or my E36 that I sold when I married and adopted (adoption #1, wife’s son and part of the 2-for-1 “instant family” package when I married) my son.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    BMW is beginning the inevitable backlash from cashing in its image. It’s been about a decade, I hope they pull back and recognize the problem.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Maybe, just maybe, the world is coming to its senses.

    Could it be that the car buying public is tired of the bulbous and angular look? (I never did forgive Bangle for what he did to BMW).

    Could it be that the car buying public is tired of “German Engineered” cars otherwise known as overly complicated and expensive to fix cars?

    Could it be that the car buying public likes resale value?

    In my opinion all the German brands have some soul searching to do.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    You could have just said:

    “BMW unit sales continue to collapse even as it pushed more of its lowest priced, lowest profit margin vehicles out the door. Many people who like to spend too much money on their fashion/image statement automotive purchases have moved on to other objects of envy.”

    A great editor once told me: “Fewer words, more insight.”

  • avatar
    Driver123

    I think many of those who traditionally steered friends and relatives to BMW as well as magazine writers no longer do that. I owned 6 BMWs from M3 to 535 wagon and still own 2 but frankly no longer interested that much. They have grown in size, electric steering is very non-BMW, their cars just don’t feel like true BMW anymore. Not Lexus just yet, but pretty undistinguishable from MB or Audi. Hey, my wife who NEVER liked BMW actually likes X3 now…

    • 0 avatar
      Driver123

      Oh and quite a few former fans went to Tesla camp. I don’t get why BMW joined that ‘space age’ look of EVs with i3. Why cant they make normally looking 3 or 5 in EV?

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