BMW had a banner year in 2019, besting German rival Mercedes-Benz to take the luxury sales crown. Munich-based BMW delivered 324,826 vehicles in the U.S. last year, up 4.4 percent.
The X7 large crossover was a "huge hit" for the year, BMW National Dealer Forum Chairman Patrick Womack, 55, told Automotive News.
"In my market, it's the second best-selling BMW vehicle after the X5," said Womack, general manager of Laurel BMW of Westmont in suburban Chicago.
BMW's long-awaited X7 arrived in the first quarter of 2019 with three-row seating for seven passengers.
"The X7 was something missing in the lineup for 10 years plus," Womack said. "Anybody who was looking for a larger truck with three rows ... we would lose them to Mercedes."
Womack said dealers played a role in the X7's market success — helping the vehicle's designers and engineers adapt the crossover to U.S. market tastes.
Looking at the year ahead, Womack spoke with Staff Reporter Urvaksh Karkaria about the products, challenges and opportunities BMW dealers should expect. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What are the top issues on the dealer board's agenda in 2020?
A: Overall, we are in a better place with BMW senior management than any recent time in history. We will still have many things to work on.
Loaner-car expense and liability exposure continues to be a strain on the profitability of BMW dealers. It's one of the top expenses in the dealership. The reimbursement from the manufacturer for the daily rentals hasn't increased in many years. The cars are more expensive and depreciating faster. We are bearing a lot of that cost.
We've got some really good momentum with our trucks. To keep that going, we need to invest in marketing to get the word out about the product.
We are also investing in our people more in 2020 and are looking at an industry-leading retention and rewards program. We want to make BMW top of mind for any potential candidate and reward those who have stayed with us.