BMW’s growing lineup of compact cars is luring customers away from similar-sized volume models, especially in Europe. BMW sales boss Ian Robertson says most 1 series and 2 series buyers are new to the brand and “very few of them” came from its premium rivals. Robertson talked about the effect this has had on BMW in an interview with Automotive News Europe Editor Luca Ciferri.
How will BMW maintain its premium-ness in Europe while also boosting volume when it already outsells brands such as Fiat and Citroen?
Today’s technology allows us to produce cars using common architectures, which means we’ve been able to enter new segments and broaden our range dramatically. Over the last 10 years, we’ve gone from being a 3-, 5- and 7-series company to a 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7-series company, plus the X products and some specialties.
What is driving this?
A big part of this growth was in the small-car segment, which now accounts for around 40 percent of BMW Group’s global volume. With small cars -- the 1 and 2 series, X1 and the Mini family -- we really addressed a totally different customer and attracted new people to BMW and Mini who moved into the premium area from volume brands. This growth has been experienced in many parts of the world where the premium segment has been growing faster than the volume segment over the last 10 years – in some cases up to twice as fast.
Such as Europe?
If you take Europe as an example, people’s aspirations are much higher these days which, combined with the recent recovery in economic performance, means the premium-car segment is much more resilient. On top of that, the European figures are significantly influenced by the region’s two largest markets – Germany and the UK – both of which have an above average penetration of premium cars.
From which volume brands are you luring your new customers in Europe?
Several European and non-European brands. When we launched the 1 series in 2004, about 80 percent of customers for that car were new to BMW and very few of them were coming from other premium brands. Similarly the new 2-series Active Tourer/Gran Tourer has had a 75 percent conquest rate. Most of those customers are coming from volume brands because those are the brands that were already in that segment.