By on February 17, 2020

BMW had a decent 2019, besting historic rival Mercedes-Benz with 324,826 U.S. deliveries — a 4.4-percent improvement over the previous year. The brand expects more good news in 2020 as new product begins to hit its stride and more models start arriving. While the company currently enjoys an almost even sales breakdown between cars and crossovers, BMW National Dealer Forum Chairman Patrick Womack said its Westernmost offerings could be further refined.

U.S. dealers want a sumptuous German wagon to compete with European marques already providing one.

The Bavaria-based manufacturer believes product will be the most important factor in ensuring healthy growth over the next few years. Womack said the X7 (which arrived early in 2019) was an essential part of that, but he also noted there are still gaps in the brand’s lineup that need closing.

“The X7 was something missing in the lineup for 10 years plus,” he said in a recent interview with Automotive News. “Anybody who was looking for a larger truck with three rows … we would lose them to Mercedes.”

“There is a place for a luxury wagon with great BMW performance in the U.S. market,” Womack continued. “The Europeans get to enjoy that great product, and we need to compete with Audi and other brands that are in our marketplace.”

Despite wagons becoming harder to come by in recent years, North America has slowly begun rekindling its romance with the segment. Mainstream appeal hasn’t manifested, but high-end manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz have kept them available via the E-Class. Audi kept wagons alive with its Allroad variants, a group that now includes the high-performance RS 6 Avant, and Porsche has the Panamera Sport Turismo.

BMW does have liftbacks, though none of the models sold in the U.S. could be considered traditional wagons. Womack said the company shouldn’t discount Mercedes’ lackluster financial performance as any indication that it will automatically stay on top without continued effort. Proper product allocation, including delivering the electric i4 (aimed at Tesla’s Model 3), will serve as BMW’s main assault.

We don’t expect BMW to start offering all-terrain wagons when its SUV lineup seems strong, but the road-focused 5 Series Touring might make a strong addition — especially if it’s worried about Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Still, profit margins are shrinking across the industry and exporting wagons isn’t something BMW will entertain if the beancounters in Munich don’t think there’s enough customers waiting to make a down payment.

It also has to contend with other markets. As important as the United States is to BMW, Europe and China aren’t regions it can simply ignore. There’s a lot of energy being put behind the launch of three EVs in 2021. Hooking America up with a wagon may not be as salient as making sure greener products are launched effectively around the world, even if they won’t sell as strongly in the Land of Opportunity. Sticking with crossovers is the safer play, but dealers want a wagon if they can get one.

Womack had a couple other takeaways, most notably a lack of confidence in subscription plans. While he said such programs might have appeal in densely populated cities, he noted most Americans like the concept of ownership and prefer to think of an automobile as theirs. He also wants to see BMW broaden its rewards program to keep customers coming back, something the automaker already intends on doing.

[Images: BMW]

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27 Comments on “American BMW Dealers Prioritize Product, Ask for Wagons...”


  • avatar
    Garrett

    A wagon is the preferred body type for my next vehicle.

    Don’t need a crossover, as we already have one. I want the car driving experience, but with more room for hauling stuff. And also AWD.

    If BMW doesn’t have a wagon, that makes decision time that much easier.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Garrett

      If no BMW – you re looking at an Outback.
      What else is there.?

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        -Volvo V90/V90 Cross Country and V60/V60 Cross Country
        -Audi A4 allroad and RS 6 Avant
        -Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon
        -MINI Clubman
        -Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
        -Jaguar XF Sportbrake
        -Buick Regal TourX (through MY2020)
        -Leftover Volkswagen Golf SportWagen and Golf Alltrack

        • 0 avatar
          redapple

          Kyree
          Well then, there’s that.
          (as i disappear into the floor)

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            I’d say you’re both right. Yes, those choices exist, but … most of them are either discontinued or quite expensive. The Buick and Golf are discontinued. The V60 starts around $40k, the A4 Allroad around $45k, and the rest are much higher. After 2020, the only reasonably-priced option left will be the Mini Clubman around $30,000 (and even then, I’m not convinced it’s good value).

            The Outback is targeted at the SUV market, not the wagon market, and it’s not a nimble vehicle. There are many SUV choices, but most of them don’t *feel* like that wagon feel.

            So basically, the wagon (as “we” think of it) has functionally disappeared from the US.

      • 0 avatar
        Garrett

        See the options have already been covered, but Subaru Outback is a non starter as I hate CVTs.

        Also, I owned a Subaru before and it’s the only vehicle I have ever owned that needed axle shafts replaced and new head gaskets while still under warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Crossovers and wagons are literally the same type of vehicle. Or to turn it other way, CUVs are just wagons, only better.

  • avatar
    gasser

    IDK why Ford which has the Mondeo wagon in Europe doesn’t bring it to the U.S. I believe that its built on the Fusion underpinnings. Of course I bought a Sable (Taurus) wagon in 1987, a year in which 1/3 of Taurus production was wagons, so I may be biases.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    I drive a current 5-Series, and I could be very tempted by a wagon version…if the price premium for the wagon wasn’t too high.

    What is generally the price differential between the wagon and sedan versions of otherwise identical models? 10 percent? 25? I have no idea and I would be curious to know

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      More like 5-6%. Where I live in Europe, list prices, €, from:
      520i sedan 49750, touring 53250
      530i sedan 53900, touring 57400
      530xi sedan 56500, touring 60000
      540xi sedan 64400, touring 67900

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      The thing that always killed the 3 and 5 wagons was that they typically cost more than a comparable X3 or X5. I chose the wagon, but most did not.

      BMW would sell more if the 3 and 5 wagons were priced between the comparable sedan and X models.

      I hope they don’t do this. I’ve made my peace with a “no more BMW wagons” life!

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        Noooo don’t say that. I upgraded from an Audi hatchback with the turbo motor to a BMW wagon with the inline six last year, and it’s been a revelation. i have never owned a sweeter car in my entire life. I’m petrified insurance will total it should I hit a deer. What else can one buy? Since I always procrastinate playing “what if i hit a deer” I’ve been looking at 335i grand turismos lately. they’re an odd duck, but i dig them.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I wonder if they see good demand for used BMW wagons and think they will transfer to new cars? I hope they realize that maybe it’s the price of a used cars that gets many enthusiasts going.

  • avatar

    Wagons are supposed to be practical vehicles but BMW wagons are the most impractical and overpriced vehicle you can imagine.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Hamilton

      Practical cars are also supposed to be reliable, unfortunately BMW’s are not reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      Nonsense. My wife drove a BMW 525iT wagon for about 10 years. Excellent comfort and spaciousness, tons of cargo room, nice driving experience — great car.

      OTOH BMW, for inscrutable reasons of its own, chose to offer the wagon with the smallest (2.5 liter) six in the US market. The 540iT version is a hoot, but kinda thirsty.

      There’s also been a cottage industry of people assembling M5 wagons…

  • avatar
    Rocket

    Yes, more wagons, please. Mainstream, luxury … whatever. Since Mazda doesn’t seem to mind low volume models, I’ve often thought they should offer the handsome 6 wagon here. Give it the 2.5T standard and optional AWD, and I’ll wager they’d move a few.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      It amazes me that people keep claiming this over and over when the evidence is almost 100% to the contrary.

      When Adam Savage said “I reject your reality and substitute it with my own” he was *joking.*

      • 0 avatar
        Rocket

        I didn’t say it was going to happen, or even suggest it was a good idea financially for automakers to flood the market with wagons. I thought I made that clear by my “they might move a FEW” comment. Still, as a wagon lover myself, I’d like to have more choices. The 6 Wagon holds a lot of appeal for me, and since Mazda seems to be okay with relatively low volume models, it doesn’t seem far fetched for them to consider it.

  • avatar
    TS020

    An Alpina that competes with the Panamera hybrid would be lovely.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The back glass opens separately on the BMW wagon?

    Swoon…

    At this rate I’m just hoping there is a sedan left standing that I have lust for when my next automotive purchase rolls around.

  • avatar
    amca

    I’m a customer. I think what I really want is a Mercedes C-Wagon. A smaller wagon is the perfect city car.

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