BMW 8 Series Rubbing Dealers the Wrong Way
BMW dealers are having a problem with the 8 Series. The returning flagship appears to be a bit too rich for North American tastes and retailers are growing annoyed.
According to Automotive News, retailers are upset that BMW didn’t issue enough marketing support to make the public aware that it even exists, and feel that the amount of configuration available works against the vehicle. As a result, many dealerships are sitting on expensive halo vehicles nobody seems to want; the 8 Series now has the highest day supply of any BMW model currently produced.
As of early March, there were more than 2,000 8 Series vehicles sitting on, or on their way to, U.S. dealership lots, according to dealer inventory data shared with Automotive News. Of those, more than 700 were “Priority 5” — a classification of vehicles dealers are looking to offload to other retailers.
“It’s very concerning and alarming that on a halo — brand-new vehicle — roughly a third of the total available on-ground inventory is being put in a Priority 5 status,” said another dealer who asked not to be identified. “Basically, dealers are saying, ‘I don’t want this, I can’t sell it, somebody please take it from me.'”
The original 8 Series wasn’t exactly popular in the North America, either. When the E31 (above) was introduced in 1990, the car was available with two doors and an array of V12 motors ready push its MSRP into the stratosphere. But even the base 840Ci (which came with a V8) cost the modern equivalent of $135,000. By 1997, BMW had managed to sell 7,232 units in North America — though most original 8 Series came packaged with the V12 and and a substantially higher sticker. Europe fared far better in terms of interest. There, the manufacturer elected to keep selling it a for couple years after the model disappeared from the United States and Canada.
By contrast, today’s 8 Series comes in multiple body configurations — convertible, coupe, and the 4-door “gran coupe.” The base model is now a 3.0-liter straight-six (diesel or gasoline) with top-trimmed variants receiving a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8. While we wouldn’t call it a practical automobile, it’s more sensible than the original 8 Series and carries a lower starting MSRP. In fact, you won’t even be looking at six-figure pricing until you jump into the M850i or M8. Unfortunately, it’s a very big jump and the current model’s wider variety seems to have been a detriment to sales. There simply aren’t enough customers to rationalize a super-premium model with this level of customization.
“If there’s 10 customers and you’re offering them 15 choices, there’s going to be a lot of cars sitting around,” one dealer told Automotive News. “But if there’s 10 customers and you offer them two choices, you’re going to sell every one and make some money.”
So what happened?
Well, the X7 (above) is undoubtedly usurping sales that could have belonged to the 8 Series. It comes with the same engines and loads more interior space for less money. Then there’s the luxury focused 7 Series (below), which is larger and more expensive but still manages to bleed over into 8 Series territory. This could have been alleviated by nixing the the lower trimmed versions or making it clearer that the 8 was supposed to be the brand’s performance flagship. Instead, it sort of fades into the lineup and feels more like a revamped 6 Series than anything truly novel.
The manufacturer sold 4,410 8 Series in the United States last year — Europe saw 6,640 deliveries for 2019. Not abysmal, but definitely less than the manufacturer would liked to have seen for the car’s first year out. Meanwhile, BMW sold 21,574 X7 “sport activity vehicles” and 8,823 7 Series to Americans over the same period.
On the upshot, BMW does plan to expend some additional cash to raise awareness of the 8 Series. It was planning a national marketing campaign for the car that was expected to commence next month. However, that plan was stymied by the COVID-19 outbreak. The company is now reexamining the campaign and when it should pull the trigger. Still, we think there’s a bigger issue at play than a simple marketing failure; the car seems to be poorly positioned and suffers from an overcrowded BMW lineup.
[Images: BMW; Grzegorz Czapski/Shutterstock]