BMW's launch of the 2-series Gran Coupe in 2020 will give dealers a new conquest vehicle, which should help fend off a new product offensive by their chief competitor, Mercedes-Benz, BMW's dealer chairman said.
The 2-series Gran Coupe also will help dealers retain price-sensitive customers who are coming off inexpensive 3-series leases. If properly equipped, the 2-series Gran Coupe should lease for close to what BMW 320i xDrive leaseholders are paying, said BMW National Dealer Forum Chairman Patrick Womack.
"Those customers have been defecting from the brand because everything we have is more expensive," said Womack, general manager of Laurel BMW of Westmont in suburban Chicago.
BMW took pole position in the 2019 luxury sales race, fueled by the popularity of its X-class crossovers. The automaker beat Mercedes-Benz, which had been on top for three consecutive years.
"Our product was frankly head and shoulders above the competition," Womack told Automotive News. "BMW built the cars consumers wanted."
But the win comes with an asterisk. BMW is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission on allegations that it engaged in sales punching, or boosting results by having some dealers register vehicles as sold when cars or light trucks are still in inventory.
Womack steered clear of commenting on the investigation but expressed optimism that BMW's sales success last year was not a fluke. He said that a robust economy and rising employment — along with lower interest rates and fuel prices — will lead to robust demand in 2020.
"While the pie doesn't get any bigger — I don't think we are going to sell more cars as an industry in 2020 — I think it's going to be a healthy number," Womack said.
But there will be challenges, including pressure on dealership profits from new technologies such as electrification, as well as new business models from digital-first competitors such as Carvana.
And BMW's old rival will be looking for payback.
"Mercedes is going to have a pretty strong product offensive in 2020, where we had ours last year," Womack said. "That's going to affect our business a little bit."