American BMW Dealers Prioritize Product, Ask for Wagons

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

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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2 of 27 comments
  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Feb 18, 2020

    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.

  • Amca Amca on Feb 18, 2020

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

  • Tane94 If there is market demand, build the vehicle. That's what Ford is doing. Kudos
  • Cprescott Looking like that? Egads
  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.