BMW is a car of choice for corporate fleets, offering a range of mid-sized urban sedans which cut a familiar, yet inconspicuous profile on busy streets. In a crowded market of European luxury vehicles, the German marque has had to adapt to changing tastes. Both large cars and small hybrids have seen sales build, with sport-utility vehicles accounting for 30 percent of the total vehicle market so far this year. With shifting demand squeezing out the sedan market, BMW has responded with a model refresh in 2017, producing a range of new vehicles to cater to a broadening customer base with these two contrasting market segments.
Recent fall-out from the Volkswagen emissions scandal, where it emerged the world’s largest car maker used special software to cheat diesel emissions testing, has made a proportion of the public wary to traditional fuel-guzzling engines and placed a renewed focus on cleaner vehicles that emit less toxic nitrous oxide. Despite this ongoing controversy, low petrol prices and a strong economy has seen demand build for SUVs.
The large vehicles have been a part of the BMW line-up since 1999. As the popularity of SUVs grows worldwide, BMW has expanded their X series from two options on the early 2000s, and now offers six different vehicles in the range, including the compact crossover X1 the six-cylinder X4 and the 3.0-litre X6. Going forward, BMW will produce the giant X7, a seven-seater with a V12 engine, from early next year.
On the other end of the spectrum, BMW has also had to contend with the growth of green vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars. It’s a market very much in its infancy, with small numbers of uptake, that is expected to grow rapidly as the technology continues to become both more sophisticated and cheaper. Experts predict that over half of all new vehicles manufactured in 2030 will be electric, and vehicles without the cutting-edge technology will be consigned to history.
The car maker has addressed this market segment by developing plug-in hybrid alternatives of its popular petrol options, including the 225xe Active Tourer, the 330e sedan, the 530e saloon, the 740e and 740Le performance sedans, the X5 xDrive40e SUV, and the i8 performance roadster. As well as these hybrid alternatives, BMW has also developed one of the most advanced production EVs on the road yet, the i3. The next-generation i3 model is expected to have a 300km range, ahead of competitors from Chevrolet, Nissan and Ford. With ‘range anxiety’ – fear a vehicle will run out of battery midway through a journey – one of the leading causes of resistance to EVs, long-range vehicles like the i3 are vital to overcoming this hurdle.
While some car makers are under pressure in the current market, other manufacturers like BMW are adapting to this changing market and embracing the latest technology. BMW distributes the new vehicles worldwide, for example, at their UK dealership BMW Edinburgh, across America, and in the Asia-Pacific, making it a truly global auto movement.