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by James Ward

BMW Australia says balance is fundamental to the prestige brand’s continued growth in Australia, and insists it doesn’t worry overmuch that rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz are increasing their respective sales at an even faster clip.

The company’s new managing director, Marc-Heinrich Werner, told CarAdvice at the Australian launch of the new BMW X6 last week that a combination of both volume and profit was essential to sustainable growth, with the former being catered for by a range of updates to its entry, price-leading offerings slated for 2015.

Mr Werner, with over 17-years experience at BMW AG, acknowledged that the Australian car sales market was challenging. With over 60-brands and 350-odd models fighting for just 1.1-million new car sales per year, any increase in sales would have to come at the expense of another brand.

“If all manufacturers met their sales targets, we would be looking at over 1.5 million new car sales; and that’s not going to happen,” said Werner. Combined with Australian-specific crash testing, the luxury car tax, slim support from government for electric and alternative fuel vehicles, and the threat of parallel imports, the challenges are more than apparent.

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Of the big-three German prestige brands, BMW Australia’s overall sales volume (22,722 in 2014, up 10.7 per cent) sits in second place, behind Mercedes-Benz (31,895, up 15.8 per cent) but ahead of Audi (19,227, up 20.1 per cent). Premium and aspirational brands as a whole saw sales growth of 8 per cent for 2014, which is expected to climb to 10 per cent growth in 2015.

Much of this growth is attributable to entry-level segments, says Werner, so BMW is undertaking an aggressive product strategy to “address solid renewal and update of the small vehicle lineup”.

We saw the new-look 1-Series announced recently, the all-new X1 is set to be revealed in the coming months, 2-Series convertible will arrive here in May, M2 is confirmed, and the 2-Series Active Tourer range is rounded out this month with the launch of the 220i.

Entry models are crucial for attracting new buyers to the brand, but for the established BMW market, there is the new X6, 6-Series update, X5 plug-in hybrid and an all-new 7-Series also in the 2015 calendar.

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Werner says that is just the start. “We know our buyers don’t always want the same car – this is why we have 3-Series GT and X6 – the same, but different.”

What’s next?

The X7 large SUV has been confirmed, and well, given their current form of filling out all the numbers in the range, an X2 two-door crossover coupe seems a strong possibility.

In all, BMW Australia will be releasing 25 new variants this year – a total of more than 60 variants across BMW cars, motorcycles and Mini in the past three years.

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Connected tech plays a big part in BMW’s product strategy. We’ll see gesture technology and the ConnectedDrive store this year, not to mention better integration with wearables and mobile devices for i-Range cars.

These new products along with a rollout of significant upgrades to key dealerships around the country is what BMW believes will help it continue the 11 per cent sales growth achieved in 2014, a strong figure that nevertheless fell short of key rival.

So while BMW is still comfortably in second place, Mercedes-Benz in first is pulling away (29 per cent ahead of BMW up from 26 per-cent in 2013) and Audi in third is gaining (18 per cent behind for 2014 against 28 per cent in 2013).

BMW aren’t the only brand rolling out new products, so 2015 should prove to be an interesting year in terms of competitive marketing.

“Balance is so important to sustain our (11 per cent) growth”, said Werner, though added “we’re not worried about our competitors”.

Read our more detailed rundown of all new BMW launches for 2015 here.




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