BMW relies on 3-series AWD to catch up to Mercedes-Benz in the US

Article by Anita Panait, on September 18, 2012

BMW is hoping that the new all-wheel drive variant of the BMW 3-series sedan will help it match or even surpass premium brand rival Mercedes-Benz, which has been outselling the carmaker in the United States. The US has become an important market for premium carmakers BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, especially since the Chinese economy is experiencing some slowdown while Europe is still battling an economic crisis due to sovereign debts.

US consumers are now buying more luxury items like premium vehicles, thanks to a resurgent economy that has been encouraging people to spend their money. According to Michelle Krebs, an analyst with researcher Edmunds.com, North America being the only bright spot would be very important to the race between luxury carmakers.

Krebs noted that North America is vital for the German automakers because their home market of Europe is “a mess." BMW has been falling behind, in terms of sales, its fellow German carmaker Mercedes so far in this year in the US, despite having introduced a redesign of its 3-series in February 2012.

BMW’s current position could have been brought about by a decision to offer the 3-series in the US without a four-wheel drive version, which is popular in cold-winter and rich luxury-car markets like New York and Boston.

Ludwig Willisch, head of BMW's U.S. operations, admitted in an interview with Automotive News last week that the carmaker was lacking cars for three or four months, adding that the company is now “fueling up."

For the first eight months of 2012, Mercedes posted a 14-percent increase in US sales to 168,462 units, thanks to the introduction of an updated C-class compact sedan and the new coupe version. On the other hand, BMW logged a 5.6-percent hike in US sales to 164,636 units for the same period. The all-wheel drive variant of the BMW 3-series will be rolled out in the US in the third quarter of 2012.

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