The redesigned BMW 7-series sedan failed to set a sales record or regain segment leadership in 2016 as BMW's U.S. executives had targeted. But they're not giving up.
"All in all, we have very happy customers, and we clearly have a target to be a leader in that segment," said Ludwig Willisch, head of BMW Group Region Americas. "But that doesn't happen overnight."
It can still happen in 2017, though, Willisch said, pointing out that 7-series sales rose 10 percent in March.
That said, 7-series sales through the first three months of 2017 decreased 9.1 percent to 2,103 cars. For 2017 so far, it's well behind its key competitor, the Mercedes-Benz S class, which posted 3,648 sales through March. In 2016, the first full year for the redesigned 7 series after its fall 2015 launch, BMW sold 12,918, while Mercedes sold 18,803 units of the S class, which had been redesigned two years earlier.
The leader in the large luxury car segment, according to the Automotive News Data Center, is the Cadillac XTS. Its sales tally was 4,678 through March and 22,171 in 2016. But as a front-wheel-drive vehicle with a much lower price point than the rear-wheel-drive German flagship sedans, the XTS is not considered a direct competitor.
Willisch made clear what the 7 series is chasing: "We take all competitors very serious -- also the other competitor that has an S in its nomenclature."
He wasn't talking about the Tesla Model S, which he sees as a direct competitor in Northern California but not as much in other parts of the U.S. The Model S pulls more BMW buyers away from the 5 series than from the 7 series, Willisch said. Tesla sold 24,000 Model S sedans in the U.S. last year, nearly double that of the 7 series.
The S class is the primary rival for the 7 series as BMW makes another run at leadership. The Audi A8/S8 line, while well regarded by reviewers, hasn't approached either of its German competitors on the sales front, selling 4,149 vehicles in 2016.