BMW 8 Series Rubbing Dealers the Wrong Way

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

BMW dealers are having a problem with the 8 Series. The returning flagship appears to be a bit too rich for North American tastes and retailers are growing annoyed.

According to Automotive News, retailers are upset that BMW didn’t issue enough marketing support to make the public aware that it even exists, and feel that the amount of configuration available works against the vehicle. As a result, many dealerships are sitting on expensive halo vehicles nobody seems to want; the 8 Series now has the highest day supply of any BMW model currently produced.

From AN:

As of early March, there were more than 2,000 8 Series vehicles sitting on, or on their way to, U.S. dealership lots, according to dealer inventory data shared with Automotive News. Of those, more than 700 were “Priority 5” — a classification of vehicles dealers are looking to offload to other retailers.

“It’s very concerning and alarming that on a halo — brand-new vehicle — roughly a third of the total available on-ground inventory is being put in a Priority 5 status,” said another dealer who asked not to be identified. “Basically, dealers are saying, ‘I don’t want this, I can’t sell it, somebody please take it from me.'”

The original 8 Series wasn’t exactly popular in the North America, either. When the E31 (above) was introduced in 1990, the car was available with two doors and an array of V12 motors ready push its MSRP into the stratosphere. But even the base 840Ci (which came with a V8) cost the modern equivalent of $135,000. By 1997, BMW had managed to sell 7,232 units in North America — though most original 8 Series came packaged with the V12 and and a substantially higher sticker. Europe fared far better in terms of interest. There, the manufacturer elected to keep selling it a for couple years after the model disappeared from the United States and Canada.

By contrast, today’s 8 Series comes in multiple body configurations — convertible, coupe, and the 4-door “gran coupe.” The base model is now a 3.0-liter straight-six (diesel or gasoline) with top-trimmed variants receiving a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8. While we wouldn’t call it a practical automobile, it’s more sensible than the original 8 Series and carries a lower starting MSRP. In fact, you won’t even be looking at six-figure pricing until you jump into the M850i or M8. Unfortunately, it’s a very big jump and the current model’s wider variety seems to have been a detriment to sales. There simply aren’t enough customers to rationalize a super-premium model with this level of customization.

“If there’s 10 customers and you’re offering them 15 choices, there’s going to be a lot of cars sitting around,” one dealer told Automotive News. “But if there’s 10 customers and you offer them two choices, you’re going to sell every one and make some money.”

So what happened?

Well, the X7 (above) is undoubtedly usurping sales that could have belonged to the 8 Series. It comes with the same engines and loads more interior space for less money. Then there’s the luxury focused 7 Series (below), which is larger and more expensive but still manages to bleed over into 8 Series territory. This could have been alleviated by nixing the the lower trimmed versions or making it clearer that the 8 was supposed to be the brand’s performance flagship. Instead, it sort of fades into the lineup and feels more like a revamped 6 Series than anything truly novel.

The manufacturer sold 4,410 8 Series in the United States last year — Europe saw 6,640 deliveries for 2019. Not abysmal, but definitely less than the manufacturer would liked to have seen for the car’s first year out. Meanwhile, BMW sold 21,574 X7 “sport activity vehicles” and 8,823 7 Series to Americans over the same period.

On the upshot, BMW does plan to expend some additional cash to raise awareness of the 8 Series. It was planning a national marketing campaign for the car that was expected to commence next month. However, that plan was stymied by the COVID-19 outbreak. The company is now reexamining the campaign and when it should pull the trigger. Still, we think there’s a bigger issue at play than a simple marketing failure; the car seems to be poorly positioned and suffers from an overcrowded BMW lineup.

[Images: BMW; Grzegorz Czapski/Shutterstock]

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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  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.