BMW says its 3 Series sedan and wagon range will remain its most important model, despite buyers in key markets swinging their preference to higher-riding SUVs.
China, second only to the US in BMW sales for 2014, has started seeing a shift from sedans towards SUVs, with 3.82 million sold there last year. So, too, has Australia, where SUV sales are expected to surpass passenger sedan and hatch sales as soon as 2017.
Still, the company says that the 3 Series will remain Top of the Pops for some time yet. As BMW celebrates the 40th anniversary of its traditional bestseller at the launch of the 2015 BMW 3 Series in Munich this week, it says that the 3/4 Series range will remain its most important model range, despite undeniable SUV sales momentum.
"Clearly, it's over 25 percent of our sales on this one model range; the sedan segment and derivatives that we have of it are still very, very strong sellers around the world," Dr Ian Robertson, BMW's sales and marketing boss, told Wheels at the 40th anniversary celebration at its Munich HQ.
"SUVs of course have been added in recent years and we enjoy a lot of success there as well, but I don't think the sedan segment is fading in relation to SUVs, I think both segments have been growing also," he said. The 3 Series will be offered in 130 countries, but the US and China will swallow 50 percent of the total supply.
When asked if it will still be the brand's poster child in a decade's time, BMW's head of mid-size vehicles, Christopher Wehner, was adamant it would. "Definitely it will be," he said. "Even longer ... and in China as well. China is about 50 percent sedan sales, and while it has changed a little to SUVs, the sedan will be the most important concept."
In Australia, private SUV sales for the first four months of this year are up 15.7 percent against 2014, yet for BMW the top-selling model is still the 3/4 Series. Its top-selling SUV, the BMW X5, has sold only one-third of the amount of 3/4 Series models, with 1272 units against 2298. Similarly, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the brand's best seller here, while the Audi A3 holds the number one position for the Ingolstadt-based brand.
BMW’s arch-rival, Mercedes-Benz, has launched a slew of SUVs in direct competition to the Munich maker's range; the latest Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe is a direct alternative to the BMW X4 SUV, while German brand Volkswagen has pointed to its delayed entry into a variety of SUV segments for its poor sales results in North America.
Click here to read the full range review of the BMW 3-Series
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