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BMW Australia gears up for a huge year of launches

Addition: The 2 Series Active Tourer will give BMW some strong incremental growth from the end of this year.

New model onslaught for BMW in 2014, concluding with crucial Active Tourer

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BMW logo27 Feb 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

BMW Australia is planning to buck the trend in a flat market in 2014 thanks to a veritable influx of fresh models that will conclude with the introduction of the new front-drive 2 Series Active Tourer MPV.

The Active Tourer is BMW’s first front-drive model, and is perhaps the headline act of a sizeable new-model launch diary this year. It will give BMW a viable rival to premium market leader Mercedes-Benz and its popular B-Class when it arrives in quarter four.

Already, BMW is taking an aggressive stance on the mould-breaking car, with managing director of its Australian arm Phil Horton promising to “hit that segment really hard” in an effort to bash the Benz.

But before the Active Tourer touches down, BMW’s local arm will launch no fewer than six other new models including the new 2 Series Coupe launched this week, the 4 Series convertible (March), M3 sedan and M4 two-door (Q2), 4 Series Gran Coupe (Q3), X4 crossover (Q3) and the niche i3 EV hatch (delayed to Q4).

The Bavarian marque has already launched the new X5 large SUV and 4 Series coupe in recent months, and just to add a final touch will grow this X5 range with entry all-wheel and rear-wheel drive 25d variants in March.

All told, the company unsurprisingly projects it will be sufficient to eclipse 2013’s record-breaking 20,522 sales in Australia, despite widespread projection of a flat market overall.

Whether it can catch arch-nemesis Mercedes is another matter. Benz enjoyed its best-ever year in 2013 with 27,547 sales – although these included over 4100 commercial vehicles and trucks that BMW does not offer. Either way, it was the victor.

Looking to 2014 and beyond, the car among all these new Bimmers with the most potential to give incremental growth appears to be the Active Tourer, given Mercedes sold 3248 rival B-Classes last year.

“...The new 2 Series Active Tourer is such a significant car, almost more than all of the other (new-model BMW releases),” said Mr Horton, speaking at the launch of the F22 2 Series Coupe launch in Tasmania this week.

“We want to come into that segment, hit that segment really hard as well, and clearly at BMW we believe from a styling, interior packaging and space and driveability point of view, we feel we have a real winner with that car.

“Because at the end of the day BMW is all about driving – be it front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

“In terms in the number of firsts – and obviously we are absolutely unashamed about this – it is our first front-wheel drive BMW in history, it is our first use in BMW of a new small-car architecture that we will see proliferate throughout BMW as we move forward in the next five years, it is our first MPV, and it is our first use of the new 1.5-litre triple engine which is basically half a six-cylinder.

“So in that one car there is so much that is new for BMW and it is so important for us, because it brings us in a sector of the market that we haven’t been in before and that some of our competitors have been.”

BMW’s sales increases should outrun the modest one to two per cent growth that Mr Horton has forecast for the overall industry this year, which is slightly down on last year’s 2.2 per cent lift due to what he believes is falling consumer confidence and rising unemployment fears.

“Unfortunately the market coming into 2014 has come into negative territory – down about two per cent – and is a soft start for the market,” he said.

“We started very strong again compared to January last year, being 18 per cent up, due to new product like the X5 and 4 Series Coupe… and overall I personally see the market as pretty flat… maybe one or two per cent up.

“I am not massively infused with confidence because of (faltering) customer and business confidence.

“We were looking for a post-election bounce and that didn’t materialise, and now what we’re seeing is potential unemployment increasing slightly moving above six per cent, and announcements around potential job losses – versus actual job losses – around Holden and Toyota and the knock-on effects around that, as well as Alcoa in Victoria, and around Qantas.

“With the government having to take some very hard budget decisions to address the deficit over time and clearly go hard early so they can blame the previous government, you can understand why there isn’t a massive amount of confidence out there.

“And customers around the car market are particularly susceptible to that.”

However, Mr Horton said that proactive action from luxury-vehicle manufacturers across the board should see the premium end of the market fare better than the mainstream end.

“Conversely this year we will see the premium segment performing well, partly driven by new product coming into the market,” he said.

“With a drive from all manufacturers not only to make their cars better value but to also go down to segments where they traditionally have not been.

“So now we’re seeing a 1 Series competing basically in Golf territory, and all of the premium manufacturers doing similar things. We’re all bringing cars within the grasp of people who might have previously only aspired to them.”BMW Australia launch diary for 2014

2 Series coupe (now)
X5 xDrive 25d (March)
4 Series convertible (March)
M3 sedan and M4 two-door (Q2)
4 Series Gran Coupe (Q3)
X4 crossover (Q3)
2 Series Active Tourer (Q4)
i3 (Q4)

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