JEREZ, Spain - BMW has pushed its new 3 series further upmarket to maintain a space between its best-selling model and new products from volume carmakers.
The first 3 series practically defined the lower-luxury segment when it was launched in 1975, said Wolfgang Reitzle, BMW's head of marketing, sales and research. Now rivals are creeping into the segment.
'This car, more than any BMW, stands for continuity of success,' he said. 'This model is our bread and butter and the growth at BMW is because we followed through the concept.'
The styling of the fourth-generation 3 series is conservative, but BMW has packed more features into the car, including an airbag for the head, climate control and stability, cornering and anti-spin control systems. (See story, Page 3.)
Sales start in April in most of Europe. A coupe will follow after a year, and the station wagon after a further six months. The current coupe and wagon will stay in production until new ones are ready.
BMW has raised 3 series prices in Germany by 1.5 percent over its predecessor. The 323i starts at DM56,600 ($30,790).
Total 3 series production is expected to rise slightly from its current 400,000 units a year.