X Marks the Spot for BMW, Who Expects a Significant Increase in SUV Demand in 2016

BMW X5 1 photo
Photo: BMW
If you thought (or hoped) that 2016 would be the year when the crossover and SUV craze would take a break, you were wrong. At least that’s what BMW is trying to tell us - and let’s face it, it might know a little bit more about the market and its trends than you and I do.
With 2015 over, we can now talk clear numbers about what last year meant for the automotive industry in North America and, in this particular case, BMW. The overall numbers are still to arrive, but one thing is certain, and it won’t make the eco-warriors very happy: BMW X models have accounted for 34 percent of the total 2015 US sales made by the Bavarian brand. More than a third represents a very significant chunk of the pie, even more so when you consider that only the fully-fledged X models were taken into account, ignoring the X-Drive-equipped sedans or wagons.

But if Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW North America, is to be believed, the only way to go for the crossover fraction is up. Speaking to Automotive News, he has said that the company expects the SUV share to rise all the way to 40 percent at the end of 2016. And there are solid facts to back his claim.

Simply put, BMW’s plants can’t produce enough X model SUVs. Over the first nine months of last year, the demand exceeded the supply, and the launch of the new and vastly improved X1 will probably make things even worse. Or better, depending on which end of the stick you are.

The remarkable detail about this growing need for large, mostly all-wheel-drive vehicles is that it happened despite an overall slump of the Chinese market. Now, BMW is expanding its Spartanburg, South Carolina plant, a move which will increase production by over 30 percent to a total of 450,000 units per year.

After a less than impressive November, the final month of the year lived up to its expectations making sure BMW ended 2015 on a high. In fact, BMW has been the top selling marque in the US ever since it gained the crown back in 2011 from Lexus. But the real challenges lie ahead, as its two main European rivals are starting to freshen up their SUV lineups, which should provide plenty of competition in the upcoming years.

But BMW isn’t sitting idle, Willisch mentioning the X7 model that will be available “in a couple of years.” The full-sized SUV will be the first such vehicle ever in BMW’s range and should go up against the recently refreshed Mercedes-Benz GLS, which by that time will be nearing its replacement date.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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