For several years, we’ve considered BMW to be most at risk from Tesla’s rise. The BMW brand’s trademark “the ultimate driving machine” tagline got stolen away from the German automaker. (Even Edmunds went out and called the Tesla Model 3 the ultimate driving machine.) Want the most advanced driving tech? Go get a
BMW Tesla. Coolest cat on the block? That would be a BMW Tesla driver. Naturally, some people think I’m wrong here and still put BMW on top, but I think any objective analysis of the situation shows that Tesla has usurped the throne on these three matters.
Indeed, a recent Bloomberg survey found that “BMW appears to be ‘most vulnerable’ to Tesla” and “No one has been hurt more by Tesla’s success than BMW.” Bloomberg created a ratio for cars traded in for a Tesla Model 3 compared to the brand’s total sales, which showed that BMW was being the most hurt by the Model 3.
"Tesla sold more Model 3s in the US in 2019 than BMW sold sedans from its 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 Series combined"
"BMW appears to be 'most vulnerable' to Tesla according to research conducted by Bloomberg"
— David ₿alland (@Morveus) January 6, 2020
With another year of sales data wrapped up, I decided to return to this topic in an old way. Before Model 3 deliveries even began, I spent some time trying to determine if BMW 3 sales were already being hurt. I moved away from that, though, as there were so many other things to cover and watching long-term trends can be like watching a pot of water boil. So, I hadn’t looked at the model’s or the brand’s long-term sales trend in the US for years … until today.
I just jumped into BMW USA’s annual sales reports and collected all the annual data going back to 2014. I’ve got it split into 4 interactive charts. (If the interactive charts don’t work for you, I’m putting a few static charts on the bottom, too. Or just check this article out on a normal computer, not a mini computer that fits in your pocket.)
First of all, views of the company’s total sales, its light truck sales*, and its car sales* (above) show a few things. They show that after a notable drop in sales in 2016, the brand’s sales have been fairly steady, and even went up a bit in 2019. They also show that the biggest factor at play for BMW has been a shift from cars to SUVs and crossovers. The latter rose steadily for years and then quite sharply in 2019. The former have been on a clear decline for several years. One question on this matter is what will happen to BMW SUV/crossover sales when the Tesla Model Y goes into mass production.
Looking at the sales trends model by model, starting with car models, you get a pretty good view of the actual importance of different models. The BMW 3 Series is central to BMW car sales, and its popularity dropped off an epic cliff in the past few years. BMW 4 Series, 5 Series, and some other sedan sales also faced a rather high-grade drop in the past 6 years.
The SUV craze no such problem, and the chart shows a big boost in views for the X3. Again, what will happen when the Tesla Model Y is being mass produced and early owners are showing it to their friends?
The final interactive chart, above, let’s you look more closely at the sales trend of each model individually. (Just note that some models — the BMW X2, BMW X7, and BMW 8 Series — didn’t exist until recently, and they may have affected the sales of similar models.)
Any more thoughts on BMW USA sales?
Here are the static charts I mentioned, but I really encourage checking out the interactive charts:
*BMW includes the X1 and X2 in the “passenger cars” category. In my model-specific charts, I moved them to the SUV (“light trucks”) category.