Disappointing BMW 5 Series GT Sales Could Spell End of Luxury Hatchback
BMW's gamble that American buyers were willing to replace the brand's compact and mid-size wagons with unusually-styled hatchbacks appears to have failed, with BMW executives stating that sales of the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo have fallen far short of initial projections.
Automotive News reports that the CEO of BMW North America has said that that past owners of the BMW 5 Series wagon have not made the leap to the 5 Series GT, which replaced the wagon in the United States in 2010. Instead, BMW 5 Series and BMW 7 Series sedan owners have comprised the majority of 5 Series GT buyers, with those driving 5 Series wagons choosing to trade in their rides elsewhere.
Even with some BMW sedan shoppers electing to move over to the 5 Series GT, sales have been slow. Less than 3,000 examples of the mid-size hatchback rolled off of the lot in the United States during all of 2010, and so far only 720 editions of the 2011 model have found new homes. These numbers are less than half what BMW was hoping for when the GT was initially designed.
BMW 5 Series wagon owners who still desire a luxurious family vehicle can still opt for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which offers the only premium mid-size wagon on the market. It is the slow drain of BMW wagon buyers to other German brands that has the company reconsidering the decision to replace the BMW 3 Series Touring (the official name for the brand's wagon body style) with a GT model of its own. While the BMW 3 Series GT might eventually reach American shores under the BMW 4 Series name, if it does go on sale it will be beside the 3 Series Touring, not as its substitute.
BMW is now in an awkward position in terms of how to handle the BMW 5 Series GT for the rest of its life cycle. Dealerships are reluctant to order the model, and some have stopped doing so altogether in order to avoid inventory sitting indefinitely in the showroom. Speculation from BMW dealers is that the GT's unusual hatchback styling and poor rearward visibility have contributed to it being an unpopular choice amongst family car buyers.
What lies ahead for the BMW 5 Series GT? BMW North America CEO Jim O'Donnell hasn't ruled out eventually replacing the model with the standard wagon that is still available in the European market. If the change occurs, and the Gran Turismo is eliminated from BMW's American lineup, it most likely won't be before the next 5 Series refresh.