By on March 23, 2020

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]

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19 Comments on “BMW 8 Series Rubbing Dealers the Wrong Way...”

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I have only seen the one James May drove in Georgia on Grand Tour.

    –I live in a city with a VERY high volume BMW dealer…as well as a Rolls/Bentley dealer, a Ferrari store, and a M/B AMG-only store.

  • avatar

    Memo to BMW designers: Please grow a set of eyes and take a look at the original 8-Series and realize that grille, grille and more grille is not the answer to everything. People still recognize it as a Bimmer.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    BMW is addicted to configuration proliferation in general.

    Their US web site shows 16 different models, plus 11 different M-series, not to mention a galaxy of sub-configurations within each model.

    Time to stop the nonsense.

    As for the 8-series, they only moved 4400 them in the US market last year, so they should cut the options way down.

  • avatar

    A fat, automatic-only Mustang that only comes with uninspired BMW V8s and it’s not selling? The whole point of the E31 was the V12 and manual. You can’t just call your 6-series an 8-series and expect it to stick.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re thinking what I was thinking – this is a German Mustang, at a much higher price. No need for that!
      And with no manual, it’s not the ultimate driving machine.

  • avatar

    The discount six-cylinder gas version and the 8-Series nameplate don’t make sense together.

    Either have an all-V8 or -hybrid lineup and a base MSRP higher than the 7-Series base MSRP, or call it the 6-Series.

  • avatar
    Mike N.

    Unsurprising when you take what is essentially a 5 series coupe that you used to call the 6 series and rename it the 8 series and bump the price $20k. It was meant to be a halo car but really the only thing that distinguished it from its sedan equivalent was the price.

  • avatar

    Eh, I look at the timeless beauty of the E-31, and then I look at the new one….maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s just that the thing is UGLY!!!!!

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    There really just isn’t isn’t a market for these halo coupes from mainstream luxury brands anymore. Mercedes-Benz all but confirmed that there will not be coupe and convertible variants of the upcoming W223 S-Class, which basically marks EOL for those models.

    The problem is that there’s a limited number of people who want to drop that kind of dosh on what is basically an ego-mobile, and a large number of people (myself included) who prefer to wait until it depreciates 70% and then buy it used, with a healthy warranty.

  • avatar

    Since they’re just sitting on lots, maybe they can take out the cabin air filters and refashion them into Genuine BMW CoVID-19 masks.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    I drive past a BMW dealership twice a day every day for work, the closest dealership to Microsoft’s corporate campus, so there is a bit of money nearby, and had absolutely zero clue BMW even made an 8-series anymore. Nor do I recall seeing one online or in person prior to this article.

    Full disclosure: I am not much of a BMW fan and care little for their derivative products, let alone their model naming convention, bit this is actually a pretty good….. Wait, it’s just a slightly stretched 3 series, or 4 series, or whatever they call it now days.

    Where is the opulence and exclusivity of this vehicle compared to literally any other sedan/coupe/sedan-called-coupe they offer?

  • avatar

    BMW has too many models. Simplify already. Bring in Marie Kondo.

  • avatar

    Why don’t dealers share inventory and why aren’t the higher end BMWs made to order. It’s rather remarkable they can custom build and ship a car from Germany in 6 weeks.

  • avatar

    I did not even know that it exists. But who I am? I am nobody, poor man who cannot afford fancy coupe from SUV company. And why SUV company makes cars and coupes anyway? Just follow reputable companies like GM, Ford and FCA and get rid of that crap.

    But I have few remarks to make:
    1. Grill is too small. They need to make it much bigger.
    2. In general make it to look like SUV because that’s what BMW is famous for.
    3. Double the price. Intended customers do not want to be seen in cheap $150,000 car. Make it $300,000. Put there V16 and Corinthian leather – then we talk!

  • avatar

    Translation: The existing BMW U.S. dealer model is not a good fit for BMW’s product offerings.

    [Proposed follow-up to the “color” QOTD: How far would you go or have you gone in giving up the content you wanted on a vehicle to get a color which was acceptable to you? Or have you ever compromised on color choice to get the content you desired?]

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Can I just get a 1 series that is a retro homage to the E30?

  • avatar

    No marketing to bring awareness of the 8 series.

    M8 GTLM winning Daytona means nothing?

  • avatar

    “M8 GTLM winning Daytona means nothing?”

    Yeah, but you’re a racer. It means nothing to the potential luxo 8 series buyers, just as Cadillac’s track success has meant nothing to their buyers. If Caddy has any buyers…

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