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7 Series can be number one: BMW

Battleships at dawn: BMW has given away a big head start to Mercedes-Benz in the large luxury sector, but the blokes from Bavaria reckon they can overtake the old stagers in Stuttgart.

Despite big lead, BMW reckons it can overtake Merc S-Class with new 7 Series

10 Nov 2015

BMW Australia wants to claim back a category it once dominated, and the 7 Series is, in its opinion, just the car to do it.

The luxury four-door does battle with fellow German rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi in the upper-large sedan segment, while Porsche and Maserati also contribute strongly to the sector’s sale tally.

The S-Class currently rules the roost, with the newest car in the segment notching up 272 sales this year to hold 43 per cent of the sector’s volume. The six-year-old 7 Series is tied for second with the A8, which was refreshed in 2014, and is set for replacement in 2017. Both have sold 61 cars to this point in 2015.

Porsche’s Panamera and Maserati’s Quattroporte are tied for fourth and fifth, both marques selling 52 cars each so far this year.

BMW Group Australia head of product and market planning Shawn Ticehurst said that the new 7 Series is as much a flagship for the brand as the i8 sportscar, and that the luxury large sector is still a respectably big market to be a part of.

“The term ‘flagship’ is being redefined in some ways,” Mr Ticehurst told GoAuto at the launch of the 7 Series in Victoria. “It's not a case of having one flagship so much any more it's flagships for different purposes.

“That big luxury car (segment) could house about a thousand cars a year in Australia. So it's still volume that's worth getting to, at least a bit.”

Mr Ticehurst acknowledged that the brand’s rivals had stolen a march on the 7 Series, which led its sector from 2009 to 2013, before being beaten by the S-Class in 2014.

“We were leading the sector for quite a while, but of course the S-Class passed us and took off thanks to a new car,” he said. “We're confident we'll get leadership back.”

BMW has used the 7 Series to debut a number of new technologies over the previous five generations, and the sixth series – code named G11 – introduces carbon-fibre reinforced plastic chassis components and infotainment gesture control to its list of firsts, which in the past have included cruise control, electronic speedos, all-wheel ABS and more.

“People that buy a car like this, a lot of what they're buying is a luxury staple, too. They want to know they're driving a car that has things other cars don't, that has technology that will filter down,” said Mr Ticehurst. “In the same way people who buy electronic gadgets or something, they know they're the first ones to get it.

“It's then going filter its way down to other people – but they had it first.

They're trying out first and they can have an opinion about it first because they're using it and they living with it day to day.”

While international markets are expected to provide BMW with the bulk of 7 Series sales, Mr Ticehurst doesn’t regard the Australian market as any less important.

“A thousand units (total) a year for that segment is still decent volume,” he said. “Internationally that segment now, it's strong in China, still strong in the US, strong in the Middle East, and strong in South Korea, so there's enough of an international market there, too.”

Mr Ticehurst was confident of the 7 Series’ ability to climb back to the top of the upper-large segment, pointing to the specification adjustments made to the 730d, 740i and Li and 750i and Li. While prices have risen across the board, included value is up by an average of $20,000 across the line-up.

“Yes, I think we've got the product to do it,” he said. “The car's good, and we’ve got the value in the car now, too. We've fitted so many things in the past that were optional and, dare I say it, still optional on some of our competitors.

“We just looked through who was buying the car and what they were buying and we looked at fitting some of those things sounded like the Nappa leather, the leather dashboard, those sort of things. Even the little appointments like the blinds on the rear windows, we saw that most people were ticking that option box.”

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