BMW Unveils Sixth-Generation 3 SeriesBy Michelle Krebs October 14, 2011
For consumer-electronics techies, October 14, 2011 marked the long-awaited arrival of the Apple iPhone 4s, but in Munich, Germany, it was the day the BMW Group officially introduced the highly-anticipated sixth-generation of its all-important 3 Series sedan. Appropriate for the car that accounts for one of every three vehicles BMW sells, the unveiling was an extravaganza that was streamed live via social media outlet Facebook. The event opened with a tribute to the more than 10,000 workers who have assembled the car in the heart of Munich since the first 3 Series was introduced in 1975. A sampling of the previous five generations of 3 Series models followed by a representative of virtually every configuration of the upcoming sixth-generation paraded from the plant to the stage for the official unveiling by BMWs full board of management.
The importance of the 3 Series to the German automaker and to the entry-luxury segment that the 3 Series pioneered cant be overemphasized. The 3 Series is the best-selling BMW model of all time with more than 12 million sold globally; it currently is sold in 132 countries. The 3 Series accounts for one of every three BMWs sold around the world; the sedan specifically accounts for one of every five BMWs the automaker sells. The 3 Series carries even more of BMWs load in one of the companys biggest markets, the United States, where it currently represents 40 percent of the automakers total sales, according to Edmunds.coms calculations. That percentage is down from the past due to the host of new vehicles BMW has added to its line over the years and the age of the current 3 Series. Edmunds.coms database shows that in 2002, fully half of all BMWs sold in the United States were the 3 Series. The 3 Series is still the most significant car within BMWs lineup and has been for a while, says Edmunds.com Analyst Ivan Drury. BMW needs to keep the 3 Series at the top of its class, not only for bragging rights, but also because its the entry-level car that will hopefully steer buyers on a path to other vehicles in the BMW family for many years to come.
The redesigned 3 Series, which arrives in the United States in February as a 2012 model, cant come soon enough for BMW. So far this year, BMW has sold 66,593 3 Series models. Thats 44 percent more sales than the 3Series closest competitor, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The 3 Series makeover comes a year or so ahead of the C-Class, which will be assembled in the United States when it undergoes a re-make, and the Audi A4. While there is still a good amount of distance between the rival entry-luxury vehicles, BMWs redesign comes as the C-Class has narrowed the gap in recent years, noted Drury.
The sales race among entry-luxury models is a critical driver in the race for overall luxury-brand sales supremacy. At the moment, with Toyotas Lexus crippled by production disruptions caused by the March 11 earthquake in Japan, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are slugging it out for U.S. luxury car sales leadership.
At Fridays unveiling, Ian Robertson, BMWs board of management member responsible for global sales and marketing, acknowledged the 3 Series importance to the brand. The 3 Series has driven the BMW Groups dynamic growth, he said, adding it also has been a pioneer but introducing a host of variants, which for this generation includes a 4-cylinder engine for the U.S. market, and state-of-the-art technology. It has also earned affection from a loyal owner base, said Robertson. He gave a peek at 3 Series advertising that featured athletes in individual and team sports, noting the common thread in winning was passion. The ads close with the tagline passion wins.
"And were just getting warmed up, Robertson told his audience. The sixth generation of 3 Series has again set new standards with the sportiest sedan in segment and a new set of design options for further personalization. The 3 Series broke the mold in 1975 and is rewriting the rules today.
Edmunds InsideLine.coms European Correspondent Alistair Weaver got an early glimpse at the new 3 Series and found that BMW kept it safe with the redesign: The new 3 Series offers no major surprises. This is BMWs cash cow and the company has no reason to do anything but give an evolutionary redesign to keep it current. There was little wrong with the old model and the newcomer looks set to build on its obvious strengths while adding greater efficiency and a smidgeon more space.