2014 is on track to being the best year for the automotive industry since before the crises of 2008, which is a good reason to celebrate, especially if you are BMW. 2013 full year global sales figures show that the Bavarian native sold a total of 1.5 million cars across all its models. While the most recent stats for South Africa indicate a clear lead of 1107 units sold in January 2014 of the BMW 3 Series, which excludes exports. The next best figures in the luxury segment are that of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class with 731 units.
Owing to the above, BMW leads in sales of the South African luxury car segment. Its grip is firmly established with the 320i, and with good reason. In the year 1975, BMW Group (in Germany) made the bold decision to enter the South African car market with full force. The company erected a massive production plant in Rosslyn, near Pretoria. The benefits of this are still felt today – I mean, who doesn’t admire a new BMW passing by. Furthermore, the market for used BMWs is massive, so there’s everything for everyone.
Looking at a global scale, Bloomberg’s Business Week magazine gives us this graph for the year 2013.
This segment is a tightly contested one simply because it is the most profitable. And Audi’s global group, long ran by South Africa native, Dr. Johan de Nysschen (who recently resigned), is the clear contender for BMW’s crown on a worldwide scale.
BMW is the Louis Vuitton of automobiles, or even a Rolex; in fact, it’s hardly ever surprising to see a BMW driver spotting both an LV bag and a watch worth nearly as much a small hatchback. However, unlike apparel and accessories, there’s something far greater that makes a BMW so much more of a prized possession. Its iconic Angel Eyes headlights, that kidney-shaped grill, the blue, black and white flag emblem, make the car exude luxury and sportiness. Importantly, being sporty is something its rival, Mercedes-Benz, is only beginning to get right.
As the world’s biggest luxury car maker, there’s a lot of aspirational sentiment that surrounds the marquee, especially among the majority of the car buying population – you and me – who in fact are more likely to buy a lower priced Lexus than an “equivalent” offering from BMW, which can cost a few tens of ‘000s more. What’s in a few thousand, you might ask? What justifies this German car maker to price itself so high, while a next door neighbour like Volkswagen sells its makes and models more affordably?
Yes, BMW has always appealed to people with a bigger budget than the average Joe, but the company, which started out making aeroplane engines almost a century ago, took the decision to divest itself from any plans of being as mainstream as Volkswagen for example, in the year 2000. Its failure to integrate Rover Group, the maker of the iconic Land Rover, which has had various “parents” in the past decade, is the main reason why BMW is solely focused on bringing us premium cars. This information is further detailed in the company’s website.
However, what made financial sense at the turn of this century might not be so credible in 2014, where countless millions of people are moving up into the middle class, in numbers never seen before in history. Therefore, it makes sense for BMW to offer something to those people too, a piece of that luxury, but without diluting the manufacturer’s exclusivity. Enter the BMW 1 Series and X1. If BMW is the ultimate driving machine, then the 1 Series and X1 are the ultimate affordable cars. Of the 1 Series, BMW says, “BMW applies the hallmarks of the brand – exceptional driving dynamics and premium quality – to the compact segment.” It continues that the compact is, “…the only vehicle in its class to feature a traditional Drivetrain Setup, with the engine at the front, and the drive at the rear. This system ensures a more even distribution of weight, and improves traction. As such, the BMW 1 Series is unmistakeable as a BMW model, while offering all the benefits of the compact segment.”
The thing to take from reading this is that BMW is without a doubt the champion of everything one wants from an automobile – exquisite looks inside and out, incredible functionality and performance, and that ego-boosting feeling that gets onlookers asking why does this one have a smirk on his or her face.
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