BMW aiming to stay on top

BMW aiming to stay on top

Here's some unpalatable news for Mercedes-Benz and Audi - fellow luxury car brand BMW has no intention of relinquishing its firm hold on the #1 spot in the always-tough fight for supremacy in the premium segment.


Worse, the still freshly minted managing director of BMW Australia, Stavros Yallouridis feels that the Munich marque could be under-performing in this market and he'll be pushing for it to reach what he feels is its potential 20,000 units a year, up from around a likely 16,000-plus in '09.

Aussie-born Yallouridis, installed here as MD after a highly successful stint in charge of BMW Greece, senses that the 20,000 target is closer than everyone thinks, adding that BMW is not prepared to concede leadership in any segment it contests.

While Mercedes has long been BMW's toughest and traditional rival, Yallouridis does acknowledge the threat now represented by Audi, which has been grabbing sales and market share in a rather dramatic way over the past four years and which has indicated it wants to be market leader by 2015.

While Audi has doubled its market share since 2004, Yallouridis is bullish about BMW's prospects of staying at #1. Last year BMW Australia sold more than 17,000 new vehicles, ahead of Mercedes' passenger car tally.

"I really believe BMW is not yet selling at its potential. For us I don't think that 20,000 sales are too far away. In Australia we don't match the market share if some other markets around the world. I want to change that.

"But we won't be registering large batches of demo cars just to get the numbers up at the end of the year, as some of our competitors appear to be doing."

BMW recently re-aligned its four- and six cylinder 3 Series line up and has been rewarded with a hike in orders.

It will be introducing more new models next year including its baby off roader, the X1 and the interesting Gran Turismo, which is a mix of performance, interior room and not too taxing off road capability.

While the X1 is still six months off, interest is cranking up with more than 1000 Australians registering their wish to get updates and pricing info on the new vehicle

BMW has also just introduced a revised 6 Series Sport Coupe and Convertible, with some cosmetic changes and a more defined sportier character.

And, as is the go these days, fuel consumption has also been improved, thanks to Brake Energy Regeneration, which joins the standard equipment list. Fuel consumption is reduced by up to 6.8 percent.

The technology is part of BMW's EfficientDynamics repertoire which is expanding to the whole range as BMW aims to be THE greenest car maker in Europe, without hurting its performance reputation.

New to both convertible and coupe 6 Series models is a contoured engine compartment lid with arrow-shaped character lines, new 19-inch light alloy wheels (previously 18-inch) with low-profile tyres (245/40 front and 275/35 rear), BMW Individual high-gloss shadow line, tailpipes in dark chrome and an exhaust system with distinctive aurals.

Other changes include the fitment of the newest generation iDrive control system and this Luddite managed to skip through various aspects without getting too bamboozled. A new high resolution 8.8" monitor with navigation, high-definition TV and 80GB hard drive is now part of iDrive. Up to 12 GB is available for audio files. The navigation data is now stored in the navigation system itself and a navigation DVD is no longer required as regular revisions of the sat-nav data is completed at the dealership via the car's USB interface.

Sport seats in four choices of leather trim, an M leather steering wheel, interior strips in brushed aluminium (which can be changed at no extra cost for Birch Grain or Maple Grain fine-wood trim), an anthracite-coloured BMW Individual roof liner and a lighting package have lifted the look of the cabin while giving the occupants a better level of support and comfort..

The 4.8-litre V8 Valvetronic engine in each model, putting out 270kW and developing 490 Nm of torque still feels lively enough. The 650i Sport Coupe accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 5.2 seconds with the heavier convertible 0.4 slower. Both use a six-speed auto with the choice of a manual activation with paddles. A Sport mode gets the whole show dancing a long with greater purpose.

It's a big, heavy but well suspended jigger that maintains commendable agility when punting along with enthusiasm.

Turn off the stability control and those fat rear tyres show no early desire to break traction.

I thought BMW might have added a nook or two for a bottle of water and phone, though to be fair, the mobile (once linked to the Bluetooth) can stay in your pocket or briefcase.

Manufacturers' list price of the new BMW 650i Sport Coupe is $227,300, and $245,100 for the BMW 650i Sport Convertible.

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