If you’re hoping to sell a luxury car in the populous New York metropolitan these days, you better hope it has all-wheel drive. Indeed, in a growing portion of the country, even in Sunbelt states, AWD has become a must. And in snow country, dealers report a conventional, rear-drive model like the BMW 3-Series might sit for months on the lot unsold.
No wonder the Bavarian maker’s dealers were so anxious to get the new all-wheel version of the latest 3-Series, which finally reached U.S. showrooms last month, said Ian Robertson, the BMW AG board member in charge of global sales.
“We had a seven-month backlog of orders for the 3-Series with all-wheel drive,” he said. “Those cars were delivered in December,” he said, noting BMW had delayed the introduction of the all-wheel-drive version of the 3-Series.
Overall, BMW posted a 39.4% sales increase in December, emerging as the luxury car leader for the second year in a row, nosing out Mercedes-Benz, which had held a small lead at the end of November. Mercedes itself posted an 11% sales increase in December, moving 30,376 vehicles. But BMW outsold it, with December volume of 37,399, to claim the U.S. crown. For the full year, BMW sold 281,460 light vehicles and Mercedes-Benz 274,084.
Without the arrival of the new 3-Series all-wheel-drive package BMW just might have lost the race.
(BMW also beat Mercedes in the critical Chinese market, prompting Daimler AG to reorganize its sales operations in China.)
Ludwig Willisch, BMW of North America president and CEO, said 2012 “was another remarkable year for the BMW Group in the United States With more than 347,000 BMW and MINI vehicles sold in this country alone, 2012 was our best sales year ever.”
Over the past year, the Bavarian maker introduced 14 separate models, from the new 3-Series to an updated 7-Series. Most now offer all-wheel-drive on at least some powertrain packages. BMW rolled out another seven new models, and most will have AWD options.
The maker has been in a battle royal with its German rivals – Volkswagen AG’s Audi subsidiary also in the hunt for the global sales crown. And that has led the three makers to increase the already aggressive pace of product proliferation, with an assortment of new sedans, coupes, crossovers and sports car fleshing out their line-ups.
For BMW, perhaps the most critical launch at this week’s Detroit Auto Show was the debut of the new 4-Series, the redesigned take on the old 3-Series coupe and convertible models.
“Our success can be attributed to our attractive model portfolio, the strength of our premium brands, as well as a strategy of balanced sales across all continents,” proclaimed Willisch at the 4-Series unveiling.
The goal is to deliver yet another record in 2013 after achieving a 2012 all-time high. In fact, all three of the BMW Group brands set records last year, BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce deliveries collectively climbing to 1,845,186 worldwide.
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