High-powered SUVs bend BMW sales trend

Potent SUV onslaught set to push hot hardware sales beyond more affordable versions

Bmw X 4 M 40 I Jpg

AUSTRALIA’S insatiable appetite for SUVs is continuing to smash traditional buyer trends with sales of BMW’s high-performance high-riders threatening to knock more orthodox versions into touch, and even some equivalent passenger M models.

In 2017, 55 percent of BMW’s sales were represented by SUVs, mirroring the larger general Australian market trend in which SUVs overtook passenger sales at about the middle of last year, but as Aussies demand ever more potent vehicles, hot SUVs are set to become king in the BMW ranks.

For now, the universally popular M2 small coupe remains the top-selling M-model for BMW, but a deluge of M Performance and M-powered SUVs and ‘SACs’ could be about to redress that balance.

Speaking to Wheels, BMW Australia head of product and market planning Brendan Michel said the recently introduced X3 M40i had already attracted a significant audience and was encroaching on the model’s traditional volume variant.

“We’ve only had three months of sales but initial estimates are telling us that X3 M40i is going to go very, very well,” he said. “It’s around 20 to 25 percent of our mix of X3, which is quite high for the top variant.

“Still our volume is the 20d as it always has been for the X3, but the M40i is not far off it.”

And that hi-po SUV momentum is only set to continue for the German car maker, with an equivalent version of the coupe-profiled X4 ‘SAC’ now on sale, adding a more style-focused option into the M-Performance mix.

“Going by that, we would have similar expectations for X4 (M40i) as well.”

The company will deliver yet another double hammer blow to the hot mid-sized SUV segment in 2019, when a full-fat X3 M and X4 M will join the thoroughbred M-powered family for the first time.

“It’s good timing to do the M Performance models first and then come out with a big bang next year with the full blown M variants. I’d say it’s never too late to join the party.”

Full technical details for the high-riding twins are still a while away and the jury is out on whether the newcomers can take the title as BMW’s most popular M-car. As yet unconfirmed pricing will be a major factor and the X3 M and X4 M are likely to retail north of $110,000 but the SUV boom could negate the price premium between it and the sub $100,000 M2 Coupe.

“It probably won’t have that price point that the M2 carries at the moment but the way the shift [in sales] from passenger to SUV, you would assume X3 and X4 M will do very well,” said Michel.

A BMW landscape where an M-powered SUV is the top seller may be a while away yet, but it seems the car maker is deliberately turning the tide, with new crossover models heralding the latest M-power technology, not the traditional sedan and coupe pioneers.

BMW has confirmed that a new M-Power engine will make its debut in the X3 M and X4 M, which would likely filter into a new-generation M2 or M3 model.

“The technological highlight of the BMW X3 M and the BMW X4 M is a newly developed straight six-cylinder engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology and high-revving characteristics,” confirmed BMW last week.

Adding to the muscular SUV battalion, a new X5 M and X6 M pair will succeed the current models, and a freshly revealed X2 M35i will introduce a baby offering with adult performance.

Ultimately, the customer will decide if the most powerful BMW SUVs will overtake garden varieties or passenger equivalents, but with total SUV sales predicted to top 60 percent this year for the brand, it appears to be a matter if not if, but when.


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