By on January 22, 2018

BMW X2, Image: BMW Group

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]

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34 Comments on “Will Light Trucks Turn Around BMW’s Sliding Sales?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Light truck? For a car based crossover Quasimodo-looking AWD thing of dubious utility?

    No I don’t care what the government definition of “light truck” is. I am offended.

  • avatar
    EX35

    The only thing that can turn around their sales decline is a massive increase in reliability and/or warranty coverage.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      They saw YOY sales for decades without addressing those issues, and sales are down as their cars have become more reliable, so what are you talking about?

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      You could say this of most German manufacturers since the dawn of the 21st century. I think BMW’s problems are more specific.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      My 335i, while WONDERFUL to drive, is not the most dependable thing. VANOS solenoids have had me limping home on multiple occasions, I’ve had an electric coolant pump and HPFP fail without warning, I need to take my intake manifold off to scrape carbon deposits off my valves, and there are all kinds of other complicated elctro-mechanical items that fail without warning. I live in New Mexico and, as nice as this car is to DRIVE on road trips, I typically take my 1995 Cherokee with 240k as that has never left me stranded and I can fix it anywhere in the unlikely event that it does.

      I’m in the market for a new, more comfortable and safe road trip SUV. As much as I love the X5, I’m going to get an Acura MDX, because dependability is the greatest luxury. If it a vehicle can’t reliably fulfill it’s primary purpose of being…you know…a vehicle…motorized transportation that takes you where you want when you want, then all its other attributes fall by the wayside.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    If the issue is manufacturing capacity, how would adding more models help? I suppose that is a nice problem to have though.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      At some point BMW will have to reconsider the number of sedan/coupe offerings. Taking up too much space on the line, the 6 series coupe and sedan could go away tomorrow and the dealers will still have enough stock to get them through till 19′ maybe 20′.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Actually, the 6 Series Gran Coupe (4-door) sells quite well. And the 6 Series Coupe was discontinued in early 2017. So there’s the Convertible, the Gran Coupe and a new liftback Gran Turismo bodystyle, on the new platform with the redesigned 5 Series, taking the place of the old 5 Series GT.

        Likely, one of the reasons the Coupe was discontinued is the upcoming 8 Series, and the fact that a lot of would-be 6 Series Coupe buyers probably just went for a well-optioned 435i / 440i, or something.

  • avatar

    “Bavarian Motor Works has found itself in a situation familiar to most brands without a full complement of sport utility vehicles — slipping sales.”

    Are you KIDDING ME? BMW has (I hope I don’t run out of characters in this response) the X1, X2, X3, X4, X5 and X6 SUV’s. Thats six (they make it easy numbering them for me). How can one company making SIX SUV’s be without a full complement?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      More CUV. More. More!!!

      MORE!!!!

      MOOOOAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      To be fair, BMW is missing out on the crucial (for the US market) proper 3-row CUV.

      And aside from the redone X3 (which is still ramping up on production), most of their other CUVs are older than the competition.

      As for models like the X2, X4 and X6 – they’re basically just “sportier” (with less utility) versions of the X1, X3 and X5 and cannibalize for a good chunk of their sales.

      Aside from the X7, what BMW needed to do is expand production for the CUVs in their lineup and they’re doing that as the new versions come online (there’s more production capacity for the new X3 then there was for the previous model).

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      X ueber alles!

      As a long-time Bimmer fan, this pains me. I understand the business model (CUVs/SUVs sell in America…and not much else), but having owned numerous models that did NOT start with a “X,” I weep.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    In other news, I just discovered the F10 came in 535d guise in the US. now THAT looks like a tasty vehicle to me. (with sport package at a minimum, if not m-sport).

    • 0 avatar
      EX35

      I did too. Until I read about CBU carbon issues. Now I know why 2-3 year old CPO models are listed for so cheap. Apparently, most need ridiculously expensive cleaning/repairs by 50k. Many owners seem to have had difficulty getting BMW to repair under the CPO warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        Yup. When I was thinking about a 335d (timing didn’t work) I emailed a indie shop who could look after it. they had even posted a video online of the excessive carbon build-up of one of their customers’ 335d… 60-70 percent clogged! I asked how much / how often for the cleaning walnut blasting etc. They said they do it for $500, and I should plan that every 60k.

        If that’s it, I’m game. If you’re driving a 60 thousand dollar car for 25 grand, something’s gotta give. However, I haven’t researched this one.

        • 0 avatar
          EX35

          I’ve heard it costs 1500-2k. Maybe that was the dealer. I’ve also heard the x5 35d doesn’t seem to suffer from that issue.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            I see. Well, certainly worth looking into in advance.

          • 0 avatar
            EX35

            if I could count on the bimmer being relatively reliable other than the CBU, I’d pick one up. But knowing BMWs, I know they are a ticking time bomb after the warranty expires. I do all my own maintenance and minor-medium level DIY work but I’ve never owned a German car and figure it would be substantially more difficult to repair.

          • 0 avatar
            EX35

            CarnotCycle,

            Did you do all that work yourself on your M5?

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          A friend recently had a 2006 M5. For nine months. The SMG III(?) was clunky and dim-witted unless under full throttle – at which point it was sublime. He tired of inadvertently cruising along the school run in first gear at 50Km/h, with passersby staring at what likely sounded like an old F1 car in the pit lane. It began discharging its battery and needed a boost if not driven every two days. After two days of BMW shop time it was discovered to be a rain sensor gone bad. “Rain sensor?!”, my friend yelled to me, “I’m the damned Rain Sensor in this car!” Its days were numbered after that. He traded it – straight across – for a 2013 335Xi. Not a bad deal at this latitude.

          • 0 avatar
            ernest

            Only person I know that owned a M5 lost a motor at about 50K miles. Bought as a COPO with extended warranty. Good thing- motor was over $35K including labor, and three months waiting for parts. No thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            CarnotCycle

            Have a 2008 M5…with the 6-speed. Spectacular car with that transmission, peerless on open highways and interstates. With no SMG most the car’s technical problems go away.

            Rod bearings are lurking time bomb on every E60 M5 (dropped new set of BE bearings and oil sprayers, rebuilt pumps, the works in after seeing copper in oil filter last summer). Also changed up throttle actuator gears (common fail) and rebuilt the VANOS head-units BEFORE they started grinding. I’ll roll the beast another 100k no problem on a now-debugged S85 and bulletproof ZF 6-speed (same trans basically as old Supra Turbo).

            So, yeah, BMW reliability I don’t think is so bad. But the DEFECTS that crop up in BMW designs (clearance spec on bearings too tight) is what BMW problems are about. At some level this could be expected; I mean a one-off V10 F1-ish motor in a mid-sedan? Kinda asking for it problem-wise (this goes for both BMW building it and the suckers that bought it).

            But properly owned and maintained by a mechanically literate person, E60 M5 is funner than a barrel of Miatas.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Why? If you like BMWs, why on Google Earth would you voluntarily get one with a diesel over gas? I have rented cars in Europe. The diesel fantasy does not correspond with reality.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        sportyaccordy, i can only login at the home laptop, hence the late reply. i drive an N52 328i. with the extra weight of x-drive. fits my lifestyle now, i mostly putter around with cruise. it’s not sprightly though. when i feel like it i build up the rpm and then it becomes really sharp, with satisfying directness of throttle response. but you got to get there and stay there first in the rpm range. i’ve heard diesels drive differently, less commitment to get up and go. Chris Harris called it “the surge” in one video online. Plus, mileage/range. I grew up in the presence of tds bimmers, experienced hours on the highway at high speeds. there’s something settled about them. i don’t know if this justifies it, but they do have something going on for them.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    “BMW” and “Light Truck” are antithetical – combined, are an oxymoron.

    Not happening. And they’ll burn through a lot of DMs, learning it.

    If they really want to compete in the truck market…the answer is as close as one national border away. Fiat.

    Buy Fiat, undo the nighmarish FCA merger; sell Fiat back to the Italians, and run Jeep/Ram.

    Chrysler, gang-raped three times now by Daimler, Cerberus and Fiat, should just be put out of its misery.

    • 0 avatar
      ernest

      Aw hell noes! Daimler already proved the high-end Germans know nothing about how to market mainstream products. The only thing that worked for them was pickups and Jeeps… and only because they adopted a general hands off policy with those divisions. Translation- internally, the truck and Jeep people pushed back at management, and were in a strong enough position to make it stick.

      Am I the only one that remembers BMW selling Land Rover to Ford? And that purchase actually worked for Ford, although they had to package LR to make the Jaguar sale work.

      Back to the subject at hand, BMW has enough (maybe even too many) SUV models, but they’re missing the key component- an American-Sized 3-seat SUV. Until then, Cadillac (and #2 Mercedes) will have a hammerlock on that very profitable market segment.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    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.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    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. :)

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