Going into December, BMW had been in second place in the U.S. luxury sales race for all of 2017. But hanging on to that position at the end of the year — by 553 vehicles over No. 3 Lexus — came as a surprise to BMW of North America CEO Bernhard Kuhnt.
"I actually literally thought we were going to be third," Kuhnt told Automotive News last week. "I can say — hand on my heart — we had done nothing, nothing, nothing in order to be 500 units ahead of them."
Lexus traditionally shows strong December sales. Even with BMW's 4.3 percent increase in December, Kuhnt still expected to be passed by Lexus. Instead, Lexus' sales dropped 14 percent, and BMW retained second place by that slim margin.
"I took it, but it was not planned," Kuhnt said.
In fact, BMW has not run any kind of month-end incentive program to boost last-minute sales since April, said Kuhnt, who was appointed U.S. head of the company effective March 1.
"Unlike some of our friends, we had nothing done," he said. By ending the month-end programs, Kuhnt's aim was "to get the quality and the sustainability, and at the end of the day also the profitability, back."