US BMW 3 & 4 Series Sales Roll Down Hill

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Cover your eyes if you don’t want to see something nasty. Following this sentence are two charts showing a clear decline of BMW 3 Series sales in the USA.

Update: After publishing, I was made aware that the 4 Series was not around for half of these years, so I collected data on this model as well, combined it with 3 Series sales, and updated these charts. The result is that the charts show a clear decline in sales, but not so much a collapse. Some commenters have attributed this fully or mostly to the BMW 3/4 Series being at the end of a model lifecycle and buyers shifting from cars to SUVs and CUVs.

Now, let’s be clear: there has been a shift in consumer preference from sedans to SUVs and crossovers. That is probably part of the drop in BMW 3 Series sales. However, if you said that apple sales have dropped a bit due to an increase in sales of papayas, yet sales of Pink Lady apples have surged while sales of Red Delicious apples have plummeted, there may be an important apple story to tell in addition to the overall fruit story.

Yes, the Tesla Model 3 is a Pink Lady apple and the BMW 3 Series is a Red Delicious apple — and in more sense than one.

The thing is, the Tesla Model 3 — a direct competitor to the BMW 3 Series — was unveiled in early 2016. Production ramped up this year, 2018. With that in mind, look at those charts again.

Now look at these two charts:

Charts by Michael Grinshpun | CleanTechnica

That’s right — you don’t see the BMW 3/4 Series on those charts, because the 3/4 Series is not one of the 5 best selling cars in the USA. The Tesla Model 3 is the only luxury car that can claim that distinction.

On the last Tesla quarterly conference call, CEO & Chairman Elon Musk shared that the BMW 3 Series was traded in by Model 3 buyers more than any other car except the Toyota Prius. I asked for more information to try to understand if that was 2% of trade-ins or 20% of trade-ins, but Musk didn’t have such data on hand. Perhaps we’ll learn more on the next quarterly conference call. Either way, though, it’s clear that Tesla is taking sales away from the iconic BMW 3 Series.

Actually, as I reported a couple of weeks ago, Tesla sold more cars than BMW in the US in August (cars only, not including SUVs/CUVs). That’s shocking — even to me. Ask 100 people on the street whether BMW or Tesla sold more cars in the US last month and I’d put some money on none of them choosing Tesla. That’s not just funny, though. It’s the beginning of a wave. What happens when those people do begin to learn that Tesla is outselling BMW in the car aisle? What happens when they discover Pink Lady apples taste a whole lot better than Red Delicious apples? What happens when they discover Pink Lady apples have better navigation, infotainment, acceleration, safety, operational costs, and autonomous driving features?

We started tracking long-term sales of the 3 Series in 2015. Back then and in 2016, reasonable people were skeptical that Model 3 demand was already affecting BMW 3 Series demand. Heck, the most critical commenters claimed there wasn’t really that much demand for the Model 3 — it was all an illusion or such. And anyway, Tesla wouldn’t be able to produce the cars, and certainly not before 2020!

Looking back on the trend now, I hope a few skeptics have come around. If you haven’t, then I’ll close with what I called “10 nasty Tesla Model 3 charts” on Sunday.

Tesla Model 3 = #5 Best Selling Car in USA

Tesla = #3 Luxury Vehicle Brand in USA

Tesla = #1 in Luxury Car Sales in USA

Tesla Model 3 Goes from Little Dog in January to Big Dog in August

It’s a Monster! — Tesla Model 3 Growing vs Small & Midsize Luxury Car Competitors

Tesla Model 3 Trend vs 11 Popular & Competing Cars

Off the Charts — Tesla Slamming Small & Midsize Luxury Car Competitors

Tesla Eats Too Much Pie

Usain Bolt of Luxury Cars — Tesla Slams Small & Midsize Luxury Car Brands

Tesla Model 3 vs Premium Class Competitors in 2018 — Core Table

Got apples?

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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