When BMW canceled the 6 Series coupe, convertible, and Gran Coupe, and then sold a car just like it, in every configuration, but with more luxury at a higher price point, the writing should have been on the wall. But dealers are still upset that the current BMW 8 Series isn’t selling so hot.
While the 8 Series was never officially a direct 6 Series successor, the 6 Series was killed off to avoid too much in-house competition for what the company hoped would be a new flagship in the 8 Series. The idea was to sell a more luxurious, more expensive car and hopefully make more money.
But according to some dealers speaking to Automotive News, the 8 Series isn’t such a hot flagship model at the moment:
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 problem with such an expensive car sitting on the lot so long is a matter of diminishing returns for the dealer. Not only is it theoretically more difficult to move a car costing so much, as the pool of potential customers who can afford one will be smaller, but it also costs the dealer money to hold the car.
Again, from Auto News:
“It is the best car that no one knows about,” said one U.S. retailer, who asked not to be identified.
BMW declined to discuss the dealer complaints and doesn’t provide information about product marketing costs or inventories.
But dealers aren’t too keen on sitting on that high-dollar inventory. The sticker on 2020 models tops $155,000. The interest expense on each 8 Series is $400 to $500 a month, another dealer said.
“It’s heavy metal that nobody wants to carry,” he said.
Another issue here, Auto News points out, is that the 8 Series is available in up to 15 different configurations, which leads dealerships to order more of the model to offer various configurations to potential customers. Fewer configurations would potentially mean less inventory. This is more a problem with the dealership inventory model, though, and not exactly just BMW wanting to offer too many options.
Some analysts think the sales issue comes down to marketing and advertising, and competition from the new X7 three-row crossover that BMW was obviously more interested in pushing to customers:
The 8 Series launched at about the same time as the X7 crossover, a “monumentally important” vehicle for BMW, said Ed Kim, analyst with AutoPacific.
With limited marketing budgets, automakers typically direct their advertising firepower toward high-demand crossovers.
“The X7 is an incremental product in BMW’s lineup that competes in a heavily contested field,” Kim said. “Whereas, the 8 Series, as a coupe, has an inherently short shelf life.”
After its revival in 2018, the 8 Series only moved 4,410 cars last year. That’s not a strong first year, and it would indicate there isn’t too much interest in the flagship—an issue that marketing could potentially fix. Especially in a time of a relatively strong economy, at least until recently.
When the second-generation 6 Series debuted in 2004, it sold over 8,000 cars four years in a row, and then again sold over 8,000 cars four years in a row later from 2012 to 2015 on the back of an updated third-generation model.
Perhaps the move from “fancier 5 Series” to “S-Class competitor” wasn’t the right one. And facing economic disaster and no end in sight to a global virus pandemic, it’s impossible to think the 8 Series will have a strong 2020.
Maybe BMW should save that big marketing push until people can leave their houses again.