We continue on our Frankfurt Auto Show interview with a decidedly German spin, and it’s time for BMW. The Bavarian manufacturer unveiled an all-new 7 Series filled with technology at the Show that is going to make the Mercedes S-Class life very difficult. It also showed the new, more SUV-like X1 bringing much-needed balance into its SUV range. The BMW building contrasted with the Mercedes and Audi ones with a very quiet, under-stated and polished ambiance. Mini and Rolls-Royce were also exhibiting their new fares, namely the Clubman and Dawn respectively. In Frankfurt I was able to interview Antonia Cecchetti, BMW Group Head of Business and Finance Communications and Kai Lichte, Head of Product Communications.
BSCB: Despite sales up faster than the market at +8%, BMW has slipped below Mercedes in Europe so far in 2015. How are you planning to reclaim the #2 spot?
Antonia Cecchetti: Every month of 2015 so far has seen the BMW brand set new sales records in Europe. Sales of the BMW brand have developed well in almost all European markets this year, with several countries showing strong double-digit growth (eg. France 34,846 units / +16% and Spain 24,181 units / +18%). Sales in southern Europe in particular are showing consistently strong growth. With refreshed or new-generation versions of some key models (eg. 3 Series, X1, 7 Series) coming to market in the latter half of the year, we are confident that the remaining months of 2015 will continue to see BMW achieving record sales in Europe.
The 2 Series nameplate is now BMW’s best-seller in Europe.
BSCB: The 2 Series was your best-seller in Europe in July (August data pending) and in Germany in both July and August. Are the scores of the past two months reflecting the arrival of the Gran Tourer or is this still solely based on the Active Tourer? What in your view explains this stunning popularity? Are you now planning more Active Tourer variants into your range?
Kai Lichte: We are indeed very happy with the successful market launch of the BMW 2 Series Active and Gran Tourer. They are however not our biggest sellers in Europe / Germany. We sell even more 1 Series and 3 Series Touring. I assume you have added in your approach the figures for the 2 Series Coupe and Convertible. Market Launch for the Gran Tourer was 6 June (Europe) / 13 June (Germany). Since that date this model is included in the sales figures. The crucial reason for their success is that the Active and Gran Tourer uniquely combine functionality with BMW typical dynamics and style. For the time being we are well positioned with our model range. In the 3 and 5 Series we already have spacious vehicle concepts (Touring and Gran Turismo). And the 1 Series is the perfect entry-level model.
BSCB: Setting aside the mechanical sales transfer from the 3 Series Coupe/Cabriolet onto the 4 Series nameplate, are you witnessing a sales transfer from the 3 Series sedan onto the 4 Series Gran Coupe that could at least partially explain the 3 Series’s sales drop?
Antonia Cecchetti: With the 4 Series Gran Coupe we have an additional four-door offer which attracts customers who rather prefer a coupe but due to space requirements (family, hobbies) feel more comfortable with a four door with a large hatchback. We are happy with every customer who moves up from a 3 Series sedan. Even more, we are delighted with customers coming from other brands and this is more or less 50% of 4 Series Gran Coupe customers.
BSCB: With its new silhouette, the X1 now fights right into the SUV arena, which wasn’t 100% the case with the first generation. Has this been a conquest model for you traditionally?
Antonia Cecchetti: The first generation BMW X1 created the segment of small premium SUVs and, of course, attracted new customers to the BMW brand. After we introduced the first BMW X1 on the market, we had a couple of customers’ studies. One point which came out, was the exterior design of the BMW X1 which wasn’t enough SUV-like for certain customers. Therefore, one of our tasks for the second generation was to make it looks like a true member of the X-Family by bringing some more X-ness into the design.