X-Class vs BMW ute?
BMW Australia says it’s pushing head office to enter the ute segment, which shows no signs of slowing down – and will soon see the entry of its arch-rival, Mercedes-Benz.
“We cannot close our eyes and neglect it, we cannot neglect market trends,” Werner said.
Although the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux and soon-to-be-launched Mercedes-Benz X-Class don't carry the appeal of SUVs and passenger cars, they're one of the fastest-growing categories in Australia, and dominate others like Thailand.
As such, BMW Australia has been vocal in its calls for a ute, pushing BMW Germany to investigate the project.
“We have been very pushy regarding utes or pick-ups, and we believe that this is something the company should be looking into.
"We have raised that with headquarters and certainly investigations are happening as we speak, but it’s too early to speak about the results of that analysis, but if there was a ute we would certainly take it.”
The launch of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class sounds a blow to BMW’s chances of topping Mercedes-Benz, with the three-pointed star set to own the luxury ute market for now.
“If you look at the market, more than 150,000 Utes [were sold last year], out of 1.1 m cars overall and I think that that segment grew last year by 17 percent,” Werner noted.
Werner dismissed the notion BMW's brand doesn’t lend itself to pickups, suggesting similar arguments were made when the original X5 came out in 1999. Now, X-badged cars account for the majority of brand sales globally.
“At the end of the day, we need to cater for what the customer and consumer want – and then the question is does it fit with the BMW DNA and BMW brand promise or are we over-stretching the brand, that is the core question that needs to be answered.
"But from a pure engineering perspective, everything is possible. The question is what does the brand stand for and how far you want to stretch it.”
Considering BMW’s foray into front-wheel drive vehicles, and the expansion of its SUV range have not hurt its brand image – and with Mercedes leading by example – it seems the introduction of a BMW ute could be a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.