By on July 7, 2017

2018 BMW X3 - Image: BMW“We created that segment,” BMW CEO says of the sector in which the BMW X3 arrived before Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo.

“The No.1 approach and target I clearly have is, there shouldn’t be anyone besides us who is No.1,” Krueger told Automotive News Europe.

In the U.S., where Krueger’s goals (expectations? demands?) for the South Carolina-built BMW X3 are lofty, the X3 ranked a distant fifth in the category in 2016.

But Krueger ain’t kiddin’ around.

The last time the BMW X3 outsold all of its direct rivals in the United States was 2012. But while U.S. X3 volume jumped 26 percent since then — to record levels in 2016 — competitors climbed faster.

The Lexus NX, which led the compact crossover segment in the U.S. in 2016, didn’t even exist in 2012.

The Acura RDX, sales of which climbed to an all-time high of 52,361 units in 2016, jumped 77 percent since 2012.

The Audi Q5, sliding slightly in 2016 at the end of its eight-year first-gen tenure, still sold 73-percent more often in 2016 than in 2012.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, a successor to the GLK, reported a 63-percent jump between 2012, when the X3 last led, and 2016.2018 BMW X3 rear - Image: BMWFor the X3 to leapfrog the GLC, and the Q5, and the RDX, and the NX, demand won’t be the only issue. Indeed, demand might hardly be an issue at all. BMW has seen its sales tail off in the U.S. over much of the last year and a half, but consumers still are very desirous of BMW’s SAVs. BMW car sales in the first-half of 2017 were down 14 percent, but BMW’s five utility vehicles were up 14 percent.

No, it’s safe to presume the demand will be there. Capacity, on the other hand, has historically been a mountain to climb for BMW’s utility vehicles.

With the third-generation X3, BMW is adding plants in South Africa and China, enabling more of the X3s built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to remain in the United States.

Even before the third-generation 2018 BMW X3’s launch in the latter portion of this year, 2017 is already looking to be a bright one for the X3. Compared with last year’s record performance, U.S. sales are up 23 percent to 24,350 through the first half of 2017, and that’s with a vehicle in its seventh model year.

Compact Luxury CUV 2017 First-Half 2016 First-Half % Change
Lexus NX 26,023 23,290 11.7%
Audi Q5 25,747 21,986 17.1%
Acura RDX 25,269 26,276 -3.8%
BMW X3 24,350 19,828 22.8%
Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class 19,727 23,391 -15.7%
Lincoln MKC 13,465 12,111 11.2%
Porsche Macan 10,638 8,129 30.9%
Jaguar F-Pace 9,559 1,789 434%
Volvo XC60 9,035 8,831 2.3%
Infiniti QX50 7,955 8,624 -7.8%
Land Rover Discovery Sport 7,074 6,944 1.9%
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 6,577 4,908 34.0%
BMW X4 2,146 2,615 -17.9%
Total 187,565 168,722 11.2%

How can the X3, currently such an old design, achieve such lofty output?

Thank the strength of the category. Compact luxury crossover sales in the U.S. jumped 22 percent in 2016 after surging 39 percent in 2015 and 19 percent in 2014. Through 2017’s first six months, category-wide sales are up a further 11 percent.

Huge interest in the category serves to explain, in part, the BMW CEO’s grosse erwartungen. “The X3 is very crucial because that segment is still the biggest one in terms of growth,” Krueger says. The newest vehicle in one of the fastest-growing categories in a huge SUV market? The 2018 BMW X3 is certainly in with a shout.

BMW began selling the X3 in the U.S. in 2004. 382,000 have been sold in the 13 years since.

[Images: BMW]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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40 Comments on “The Third-generation BMW X3 Absolutely Must Be the Best-Selling Small Luxury Crossover in 2018, BMW CEO Says...”


  • avatar
    MBella

    Maybe they should start by making the car more competitive. This thing has very few redeeming qualities. The body roll is atrocious even for a crossover. The seats aren’t that comfortable either. This thing is only sold based on badge. Why anyone would buy one over the competition is beyond me.

    • 0 avatar
      JRobUSC

      either you never drove an X3, or you never drove any of the X3’s competitors, or both. Having actually done both (and personally owning a 2013 X3) I can emphatically say you are incorrect. But don’t take my word for it, the X3 was recently named “Best Luxury SUV for Families”:

      https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/2017-best-luxury-compact-suv-for-the-money-bmw-x3

      It also came in second in a comparison test as recently as 2015, with the best driving dynamics, against much newer models, only missing the top spot because the interior design wasn’t as “sexy” as the newer competition:

      http://www.motortrend.com/cars/lexus/nx200t/2015/the-big-test-2015-luxury-compact-crossovers/

      And it won a comparison test in 2013 against the Evoque and Q5:

      http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2013-bmw-x3-xdrive28i-vs-2013-audi-q5-20t-2013-land-rover-range-rover-evoque-comparison-test

      So the current car is plenty competitive now, despite its age. The new one (and I’m eyeing an X3 M40i for myself) should be pretty great.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        As I said, I was able to drive both the X3 and a few competitors back to back at a drive event. The X3 was very miserable. The handling was awful, especially the body roll. At the same time you could feel every imperfection in the pavement. The front seats were not comfortable, and the space in the back small. The two other vehicles were in a different ball park. Posting pay to play articles from Motor trend isn’t going to change that.

        • 0 avatar
          JRobUSC

          “As I said, I was able to drive both the X3 and a few competitors back to back at a drive event.”

          At a drive event, eh? Which competitor brand were you working for at the time? Still working for them?

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            I’m not going to discuss who I work for. It has zero affect on the argument, and it doesn’t change the fact that the X3 is the worst of the bunch. The X3 was straight from a local dealer. It’s not like we altered it to make it extra crappy. The other competitors cars had many pluses and depending on what you want in the vehicle, an argument could be made for any of them. With the X3 it simply is not the case. It is just plain awful. Your BMW fan boy status isn’t going to change that. The car is simply inferior in every way.

          • 0 avatar
            JRobUSC

            “I’m not going to discuss who I work for. It has zero affect on the argument, and it doesn’t change the fact that the X3 is the worst of the bunch. The X3 was straight from a local dealer. It’s not like we altered it to make it extra crappy. The other competitors cars had many pluses and depending on what you want in the vehicle, an argument could be made for any of them. With the X3 it simply is not the case. It is just plain awful. Your BMW fan boy status isn’t going to change that. The car is simply inferior in every way.”

            Riiiiiight, why would it matter that you work for a competing brand? I mean, there’d be no bias there, no irony in calling someone else a fanboy. (eyeroll) Anyhoo, we’ll just agree to disagree, good luck with your sales today.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            How many competitors are there in this segment? There’s at least 10 that I could come up with. Every one of those has some things it does better, and some that it does worse. Depending on what is important to you, anyone of those could be a good decision. If I had some sort of specific bias for my employer, I wouldn’t single out the X3 as the biggest turd in the bunch.

      • 0 avatar

        The X3 has exactly no redeeming qualities, and nothing to recommend it over the competition. It’s a rolling eyesore that should be culled from the herd.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        The X3 is just a blah SUV. We had one as a loaner for 2 days. It’s got a much better stereo than my 10 year old 3er wagon, but other than that and the additional space, it was a pretty unremarkable ride.

        No way I’d consider it. It’s not big enough for the family, not fun enough for a daily driver, not quick enough compared to other SUV’s at a similar price and the interior is a bore.

        Other than the badge, I have no idea why these sell.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Sport seats or non sport seats? Suspension options?

      We have an ’11 with the I6, sport seats, and EDC in the garage. Body roll is minimal for a CUV; I think my E46 sport package rolls more. Seats are subjective and sport seats vs non sport seats make a difference. I prefer sedans, but as CUVs go it is a good drive. Far more entertaining than the Q5 and GLK we compared it to.

      It certainly isn’t perfect though. Interior materials are good, but design is bland at best. It has some weird ergonomics too. Specifically, the doors are too short, so with the seat where I am comfortable (basically inline with the B pillar) the armrest on the door is too far forward to use comfortably. The portals to the back seat are a bit tight too.

      As far as build quality and unexpected repairs go, it’s been a heap of sh!t, even by BMW standards (own(ed) three others). 65k miles and the rear shade of the panoramic roof is stuck open, it makes a noise around 50-60 mph that the mechanic suspects is the diff, a tailight is out and you need to replace the whole assembly (wtf?), and the trim on the glove box door is coming unglued. The mechanic also thinks the wheel bearings have unusual wear, to the point that he wonders if the previous owner made a habit of going off roading.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Standard seats in all vehicles with the base suspension setups. If you think the body roll is minimal, drive the competitors vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosser1

        I had an X3 from 2011 for 6 years. Although a 2liter diesel (in UK) it was reasonably powerful and not bad to drive. But like you I had troubles. Both headlight clusters and a rear light cluster replaced. The run flat tyres forever needing pumping up. Wheel speed sensor replaced. And the big one, transfer box replaced at an eye watering cost.But the most annoying was the fuel consumption. Never got within range of claimed mileage! Disappointing!

      • 0 avatar
        drivebywire

        So your mechanic says the previous owner went off-roading?

        And you bought it.

        And you found out about the off-roading this late?

        And now you are complaining about it?

        Awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Enter the Buick Envision right behind the X3 and ahead of the ovid GLC in it’s first, full year of sales at 22,000 units.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Perhaps the new X3 will deliver something Euro brands keep stinting on: interior room, including foot room. The current X3’s severely lacking in that area, mostly due to a huge, mostly useless center console, and the current X3’s AWD transfer case parked next to the driver footwell. Unfortunately Mercedes and Audi do the same huge console trick.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Holy hell. With the overall market being flat, where are all these sales coming from?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      An overall market flat doesn’t mean it’s flat in all corners.

    • 0 avatar
      volvo

      Perhaps from people who would have purchased a RAV4 with all the baubles but now look elsewhere since the current gen RAV4 no longer offers a V6.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Highly unlikely; if Toyota were selling 100K RAV4 V6s a year they wouldn’t have discontinued it and in any case pretty much all these things are 4 bangers too.

        • 0 avatar
          volvo

          I was being a little facetious but do agree with you after looking at pricing. A fully loaded X3 is $20,000 more than a fully loaded RAV4. But you do get a V6 for that 20K.

          Perhaps a NA 4 banger with Hybrid option would give the extra added ooph from the electric motors when acceleration is needed.

          The V6 AWD RAV4 cost about $2500 more than the 4 cylinder model. The 4 cylinder model got 1 MGP better mileage highway and 2 MPG combined compared to the V6. Those that know about those things said that is was because the V6 was just loafing along at highway speeds where the 4 was working harder. 240HP vs 180HP.

          Perhaps consumers are that price sensitive and buyer demand is why the V6s are disappearing but I don’t really know.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            V6s are disappearing because 4 bangers are adequate. I had an Accord LX rental and was pretty impressed by its power. It actually worked well with the CVT. And the RAV4 has a hybrid option.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    They’re a ho hum 4th. What they need to do is offer a manual and focus on the driving experience. You know, the things that originally made the brand special. Duh!

  • avatar
    EX35

    How about just making them not fall apart prematurely.

  • avatar
    Car Guy

    BMW needs a serious update on interior styling. Audi and Mercedes blow them away. It’s hard to tell a new BMW from a 10 year old model. That cluster and center stack look ancient.

  • avatar
    dmoan

    I recently test drove x3 but went with Rdx since it was better choice all around.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Lexus lol’d.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Nice to see the X4 at the bottom of the charts, but then again the hideous Lexus is on the top.

    And 14 years later Cadillac still doesn’t have an entry in this segment.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      That’s because NX is only “hideous” in the minds of Internet commenters. Everyone else thinks it’s bold and unique. Well, it was before everyone else started copying it.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    LOL at that small rock causing the X3 to run out of rear wheel travel.

    /4wd snob

  • avatar
    bd2

    Having more supply will help, but BMW is doing fine for itself if the X3 is selling within the ballpark of the likes of the NX and RDX (esp. not counting X4 sales).

    The NX and RDX have the pricing advantage (being cheaper, FWD-based CUVs) which is why often in comparison tests, the NX and RDX are pitted against the X1 and not the X3.

    The new X3 gets a much needed boost in interior quality, but the sheetmetal, while an improvement over it’s “bleh” predecessor, still isn’t exactly what one would call aesthetically pleasing (but better than the bland-mobile that is the GLC).

    The Twit-in-Chief’s bashing of BMW backfired (as did his bashing of Ford) – part of the reason BMW decided to expand production of the X3 to China and SA was to hedge their bets in light of the threats from the bloviator.


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