"Bernhard has to take it to the next level and at a time when there's a lot of things happening — a lot of electromobility discussions going on, a lot of autonomous driving going on, a lot of tech being delivered or developed here," Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member in charge of global sales and marketing, said in April at the New York auto show. "He's going to be busy."
Some dealers and analysts say BMW and Kuhnt should look at how customer perception of the brand has changed. For example, in Kelley Blue Book studies and surveys, 29 percent of respondents say they will consider buying a BMW, higher than for any other luxury brand. But in new-vehicle shopping activity tracked by KBB, BMW trails Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, in that order.
"BMW has really lost their mojo," said Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst for KBB. "They have incredibly high consideration numbers."
But the brand isn't converting as many of those shoppers to buyers as it should, she said. "They're disappointing people," Lindland said. "People are looking and saying, 'There is supercompetitive product out there,' and choosing something else."
It has made for a tough couple of years for the brand and its dealers.
In 2016, as its U.S. volume tumbled 9.5 percent to 313,174 vehicles, the BMW brand lost the U.S. luxury sales crown it had held for four of the five prior years, falling to third behind Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. It was the biggest decline among luxury brands for the year — as BMW's incentives soared 26 percent, according to Autodata.
Even the brand's most recent sales title, in 2015, was marred by reports of BMW "punching" vehicles, a practice in which automakers ask dealers to self-register vehicles as loaners. Even though BMW finished No. 1 in reported sales among luxury brands in 2015, it came in No. 3 in U.S. vehicle registrations that year, behind Lexus and Mercedes.