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BMW to push Australian buyers’ boundaries

Price point: BMW Australia says it will keep looking for ways to improve value for buyers, including through adding smaller engines to its line-up.

German luxury car-maker BMW taking new paths to customers' minds and wallets

BMW logo28 Mar 2014

BMW says it will continue to push the boundaries of buyers’ expectations as a range of new products at odds with its core philosophies are rolled out.

The German luxury car-maker is introducing smaller engines, adding rear-wheel-drive options to its large SUV range and even introducing its first front-wheel-drive model as it looks to break away from tradition – and make its cars cheaper for buyers in the process.

At the same time, the company is also making its bold push into bespoke EVs and plug-ins with its innovative i3 and i8 models, which will begin trickling into Australian showrooms this year.

BMW Australia corporate communications general manager Lenore Fletcher said the car-maker would be keen to see the consumer response to the recent introduction of a rear-wheel-drive version of its X5 mid-size SUV, describing its introduction to the line-up as an “experiment” for the brand.

The rear-drive X5 saves buyers about $5000 compared with the all-paw version, but also features a smaller, less powerful four-cylinder turbo diesel under the X5 bonnet for the first time, cheapening the price of entry to the X5 range to $82,900 before on-roads – down from almost $100,000 for the previous AWD entry model powered by an in-line six-cylinder turbo diesel.

“We are interested to see how consumers react to it, although we do expect a very positive response,” Ms Fletcher said.

“At this point there are no concrete plans for further [rear-drive] models [in the X5 line-up], but I would never rule out anything.

“Australia has a very diverse market, very open to new models or variants, and as you can see from our line-up we aim to please.” BMW anticipates only about one in four entry-level X5 owners will opt for the cheaper sDrive25d rear-drive model over the $87,900 xDrive25d AWD version.

The car-maker sets a new benchmark late this year when the marque’s first front-drive model – the 2 Series Grand Tourer – joins the BMW showroom to rival the likes of Mercedes-Benz’s strong-selling A-Class/B-Class combination.

“...The new 2 Series Active Tourer is such a significant car, almost more than all of the other (new-model BMW releases),” BMW Australia managing director Phil Horton said earlier this year.

“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,” he said.

“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.” Front-drive vehicles weigh less than rear-wheel-drive versions, giving fuel use benefits, and are also cheaper to build. The front-drive Active Tourer also allows BMW to integrate its Mini sub-brand into the wider BMW production process, sharing technology with its luxury-branded sibling.

Ms Fletcher said BMW was “very conscious” of maintaining the value of the BMW brand in the chase for sharper value for buyers.

“I think there is no doubt that BMW obviously is a premium brand and that is evident in so many aspects of the vehicles in terms of the finish, the quality, the performance, the technology, the design — all of the things that are associated with BMW continue through (to the cheaper models),” she said.

However, because BMW was moving ahead with its research and development, it was able to build its cars to offer “a better price point”, with smaller engines being a prime example.

“But those engines, whilst they might be not the traditional larger engines you see in these vehicles, smaller engines are indeed technology development,” she said.

“I think it’s a win-win for the consumer.”

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