BMW Prepared to Lose Worldwide Sales Crown in Premium Segment for 2015

BMW CEO Dr. Norbert Reithofer 1 photo
Photo: BMW
The journalists attending BMW’s annual accounts press conference got a chilly feeling listening to the officials talking about the future, present and the past. Apart from hearing a goodbye speech from the current CEO, Dr. Norbert Reithofer, there was more to what he actually said than did.
The general consensus was that he was hinting at the possibility of BMW losing its crown in the premium segment in terms of sales during the following months. That’s a position the Bavarian company held for the better half of the last decade and yet the pressure from Audi and Mercedes-Benz is higher than ever, with numbers slowing crunching beneath it.

"There are always internal discussions about volume, these tend to end with the conclusion that we cannot surrender market share, but only if you have a good margin contribution. Volume is not everything and maintaining the same level of growth is not everything," Reithofer said.

That is definitely a defensive statement, unlike what we used to hear at these events, where BMW normally would tell us that the sales will reach new highs and that everything is going to be alright, both in terms of volume and profits.

To be fair, the results over the first two months aren’t looking exactly bright. Audi outsold BMW and Mercedes-Benz posted the highest increase in sales volume percentages of the three. With last year’s numbers extremely close, it will be a fierce fight.

In BMW’s defense we’ll have the new models that, according to the officials, will count up to 15 this year alone. That includes the facelifted 6 Series, the 1 Series LCI and the 2 Series Gran Tourer we already saw but there are more to come.

At the same time, the other two companies aren’t exactly standing still either, planning the launch of new cars as well to counter BMW’s offensive that has to include MINI and Rolls-Royce in its plans. If we were to include MINI sales in the total as well, this would be a non-issue as the Munich-based group would still have the upper hand.

Early estimates of IHS Automotive seem to contradict the pessimist forecast of Reithofer, saying that they estimate BMW will sell around 1.82 million cars this year followed by Audi with 1.7 and Mercedes-Benz with 1.6 million.
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