Will Light Trucks Turn Around BMW's Sliding Sales?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Bavarian Motor Works has found itself in a situation familiar to most brands without a “full complement” of sport utility vehicles — slipping sales. BMW’s U.S. sales dipped 2.4 percent in 2017, and that was after a 9.5 percent drop in 2016. It cites an inability to supply the region with enough light trucks to meet demand as the primary reason for the sales slump and promises things will change for 2018.

The brand plans to launch the redesigned X4 compact crossover this year and hints that it might update the X5 too. Sales of the X2, which was present at the North American International Auto Show last week, should commence this March. On the other end of the size spectrum is BMW’s all-new X7 — which will become the automaker’s biggest model when it goes into production later this year.

“We got for 2018, from the smallest to the biggest car, exactly what we wanted,” BMW of North America CEO Bernhard Kuhnt told Automotive News in an interview. “We worked very closely with Munich. Everything we asked for, we received.”

Assuming the strategy works, BMW should be sitting pretty by the middle of next year. However, if it doesn’t, the German brand will know that its current sales issue is dependent on more than just the types of vehicles in its present lineup.

Kuhnt said the brand is covering its bases though. He claims the 2017 redesign of the 5 series has worked wonders for sales. That model’s 2016 volume crested at a disappointing 32,408 units, while the following year saw annual volume creep up to 40,658 deliveries. “That was outselling its main competitor nine months in a row,” Kuhnt said, “and that’s in a shrinking sedan market.”

The German automaker’s peak year remains 2015, which saw 346,023 U.S. sales. In contrast, Bimmer’s chief rival, Mercedes-Benz, saw its U.S. sales reach a new high point of 375,240 units last year.

[Image: BMW]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Sub-600 Sub-600 on Jan 23, 2018

    Double Decker CUVs are going to be the next big thing. BMW should play on the MINI British heritage and introduce a double decker Clubman. Pip-pip. Bob’s your Uncle.

  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Jan 23, 2018

    They are losing sales because BMW lost the plot a long time ago. When they had real sports sedans people would put up with clutch/engine/transmission issues for the driving experience. Now they are too much a "Me Too" car company with a reliability perception issue like Chrysler. There was a time I would have bought a BMW but now there are so many other cars that are better in general than what they have to offer. High performance SUV? Pepperwagon or Trackhawk. Perfomance sedan? Japan or Korea has you covered. Estate car? Don't have room to list them here but I bet a Volga is more reliable. OK, maybe not. :)

  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon
  • Alan My comment just went into the cloud.I do believe its up to the workers and I also see some simplistic comments against unionisation. Most of these are driven by fear and insecurity, an atypical conservative trait.The US for a so called modern and wealthy country has poor industrial relation practices with little protection for the worker, so maybe unionisation will advance the US to a genuine modern nation that looks after its workers well being, standard of living, health and education.Determining pay is measured using skill level, training level and risk associated with the job. So, you can have a low skilled job with high risk and receive a good pay, or have a job with lots of training and the pay is so-so.Another issue is viability of a business. If you have a hot dog stall and want $5 a dog and people only want to pay $4 you will go broke. This is why imported vehicles are important so people can buy more affordable appliances to drive to and from work.Setting up a union is easier than setting up work conditions and pay.
  • El scotto I can get the speedometer from dad's 72 Ford truck back. I can't get dad back.
  • El scotto BAH! No dividers in the trunk for bags of onions or hooks for hanging sardines! Hard Pass.