BMW Australia says it is entirely possible that a day could soon come when it sells more SUVs from its growing X range — which will expand to at least six models including the new X7 seven-seater from 2017 — than lower-riding passenger cars.
Over the past four years the company has taken its SUV range from strength to strength, especially compared to arch nemesis Mercedes-Benz, which has been hobbled here by the lack of a right-hand-drive GLK-class — something that will soon change.
In 2010, 34 per cent of BMW’s total local sales were its X-line of SUV models, a figure that shot up to 42 per cent by the end of 2013. Since 1999 and the launch of the first X5, BMW has sold 3.2 million SUV models — 30 per cent of its total figure over the period.
This year the figure sits at about 38 per cent — similar to Audi, but short of Porsche — something the company pins on a lack of X3 and X5 supply, the late launch of the range-opening X5 x25d variant and increased competition from rivals, especially in the compact space.
Nevertheless, the company says its year-end tally should be comprised of around 40 per cent SUVs, and BMW Australia product manager Brendan Michel and general marketing manager Toni Andreevski both say a figure in excess of 50 per cent could in time become a reality.
“There could be and we’re seeing (that) consumer trend,” Michel said.
The context for this is this week’s local launch of a new — and fifth — X derivative, the sporty and coupe-like X4, which is a conceptually shrunken version of the polarising X6 spun-off the X3’s architecture.
Some may scoff at the X6 and its X4 little brother, but consider that somewhat startling fact that BMW globally has sold 250,000 first-generation X6 models since 2008. In the same time it has sold 750k X5s, meaning one-in-four people prefer the more oddball offering to the conventional one.
“A lot of people said the X6 was an answer to the question that nobody asked but in fact it was an answer to the question 250k people asked before they even asked it,” said Andreevski.
The second-generation X6 will launch in Australia by early 2015.
The new X4, plus the X7 seven-seater to be unveiled in 2016 overseas and in Australia by 2017, will drive up BMW’s X-line sales even further. “The board think there’ll be serious growth in this segment,” said Michel.
To this affect, BMW this year announced a billion dollar upgrade for its US plant in Spartanburg that will grow production capacity there by 50 per cent to 450k units annually within two years. BMW builds the X3, X4, X5, X6 and soon the X7 at that plant, including for Australia.
This new X7 will bring its known SUV range to six models, though rumour has it the company is also developing yet another crossover line based on the Mini’s UKL platform. This front- and all-wheel-drive architecture will in addition underpin the next X1.
Referring to the X7, Andreevski added that right-hand-drive availability was assured, and said the car would be an important addition locally.
“Certainly a car that would work in our market. If you think abut what our competitors have, the product is obviously differentiated from the donor car (the X5).
“We’re very much looking forward to having a car like that in Australia particularly given the growth in the sports activity vehicle segment (BMW-speak for the SUV) as well as the fact that some of our competitors have done quite well in that upper echelon.”