SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- BMW AG sees the U.S. as the biggest market for its new X6 crossover despite rising fuel prices.
Friedrich Eichiner, BMW board member for corporate and brand development, said about half of the X6s annual production volume will be sold in the U.S.
BMW plans to build 40,000 units of the X6 annually in its plant here. After the U.S., the X6s other major markets will be Germany and the UK, which together will account for about 10 percent of X6 sales, a BMW spokesman said.
Eichiner said he does not think that higher U.S. gasoline prices will have a big impact on X6 sales.
Maybe there could be some knock-on effect, but the U.S. is still the worlds biggest SUV market. This is why we are confident the X6 will be a success, Eichiner told Automotive News Europe at the cars press launch here.
U.S. gasoline prices have risen nearly 27 percent to $3.25 per gallon (0.54 euros per liter), according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Eichiner said higher U.S. gasoline prices have led BMW to offer a gasoline-electric hybrid version of the X6.
A hybrid X6 will go on sale in the U.S. and Europe starting in mid-2009. It will use a 407hp 4.4-liter gasoline V-8 engine combined with an electric motor.
We want to show American customers that you can still have fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance, Eichiner said.
BMW says the hybrid will consume 20 percent less fuel than the equivalent gasoline model. The carmaker has developed dual-mode hybrid powertrain technology with General Motors and the former DaimlerChrysler.
The X6 is based on the X5 premium SUV. It will target customers who want a high-ride vehicle like an SUV but also sporty, coupe-style looks.
In Europe, the X6 will be offered with a choice of two gasoline and two diesel engines in addition to the hybrid model
BMW has no plans to sell a diesel X6 in the U.S. It will be offered with a choice of two gasoline engines in addition to the hybrid model.
Peter Tuennermann, X6 project manager, said: We will bring an X5 diesel to the U.S. later this year to see if there is sufficient market potential. If that is a success, we could sell a diesel X6 here.
The X6 will go on sale in Europe and the U.S. starting May 31. Prices will start at 56,800 euros in Germany and $52,500 in the U.S.