LAMEGO, Portugal -- BMW believes its latest 7-series offers levels of comfort that will help it close the gap with the segment-leading Mercedes-Benz S class, especially in the key China market where wealthy executives prize comfort features above driving dynamics.
For the latest-generation of BMW's flagship sedan, engineers were tasked with delivering a more refined vehicle with a smoother ride than the current model, without losing the brand' s characteristic agility and handling.
The end result is what the company calls the lightest, most dynamic and fuel-efficient car of its class. “We’ve packed everything into this car that we could think of in terms of innovation, luxury and comfort,” said Klaus Froehlich, BMW's head of research and development at BMW, during a press launch for the car here.
BMW has sold about 370,000 of the current, fifth-generation sedan since sales began in 2008 and the automaker expects to beat that total with the new version, which will go on sale October 24. “We are confident that it [sales] will be even more with the new one,” Froehlich said.
BMW sold 48,480 units of the 7 series globally in 2014, less than half the 101,428 units of the S class sold by Mercedes, but more than the 37,158 Audi A8s sold that year, according to market research firm IHS automotive. Whether BMW’s new flagship can outsell the S class going forward, however, remains in doubt.
“In the U.S., it’s a neck-on-neck race,” said one company source. “So basically it comes down to China, a lot depends on that market.”
BMW wants to regain leadership of the luxury sedan segment in the U.S. The S class is the segment's top-seller with sales of 11,994 through July, down 9 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center. The 7 series was No. 2 with a volume of 6,139, up 17 percent. Third-placed Lexus LS had sales of 4,332, down 5 percent.
But China is the key market. The S class will remain China's top-selling premium sedan with sales forecast to be 34,222 this year, compared with 18,350 for the Audi A8 and 17,303 for the 7 series, according to IHS Automotive. Sales of the 7 series will pass those of the A8 next year but still be below S class sales, the forecaster predicts. See chart below.