North American BMW sales dropped 18% during 2020, from deliveries totaling 374,275 to 306,870, staggering figures which include BMW brand sales shrinking 17.5% from 338,003 to 278,732, and Mini sales declining 22.4% from 36,272 to 28,138. The fourth quarter of 2020 showed signs of life, however, with the BMW brand carding a year-over-year loss of just 2% from 100,7979 deliveries to 98,750, which was made up of BMW passenger car sales dropping 13.6% from 50,627 to 43,746, but light truck (X3 through X7) sales increasing 9.6%, from 50,170 to, 55,004. The mini brand logged a year-over-year decline of 3.6% during the fourth quarter, with sales sliding from 8,864 to 8,549, but that’s still much better than the double-digit drops the brand has been seeing for the past few years.
BMW says 2020 was a challenging year, but that sales performance during the fourth quarter, which included two months of record deliveries, greatly exceeded expectations. In addition to BMW’s X cars, from the X3 to the X7, which are classified as light trucks, the entire X lineup including the X1 and X2 accounted for 60% of deliveries in 2020. If you’ve been following along with our sales reports or BMW’s own releases during previous years, this will not come as a particular surprise. The presence of the X lineup has been steadily growing, and we shouldn’t forget that BMW helped invent the segment over twenty years ago. BMW’s light truck X portfolio also boasts the strong cost advantage of being produced at BMW Group Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina, the automaker’s largest manufacturing site.
Even with the most difficult year in recent memory effecting sales by way of lockdowns and a temporary manufacturing halt, BMW came out on top against Lexus and Mercedes-Benz for 2020 and the fourth quarter in terms of U.S. sales. Deliveries of 278,732 BMW vehicles bested Lexus by 5,796 units and Mercedes-Benz by 20,672. The strong performance by BMW was largely driven by its SAV lineup, but the same is true of Mercedes and Lexus. According to Mercedes, 65% of its 2020 sales were SUV models, with the GLA and GLB making up more than a quarter of that figure. Sales of the Lexus GX, which has been in production using its current basis since 2009, with a V8 engine that dates to 2006, also witnessed a large sales increase at the end of 2020.
The most popular model for BMW NA during 2020 was the X3, with unit sales totaling 59,941. That’s down 14.9% from 2019’s total of 70,395, but fourth-quarter results show that the X3 is rebounding, with deliveries increasing 15.5% year-over-year from 20,382 to 23,541. The X5 was hot on the X3’s heels, with 50,652 deliveries occurring in 2020, a decrease of just 8% from the 55,045 sold the year prior. During the final three months of 2020, X5 deliveries jumped 4.8% year-over-year, from 17,804 to 18,657. The sales success of the X3 and X5 in the fourth quarter returned both models to pre-pandemic levels, painting an optimistic picture for the year ahead.
Sales of BMW’s largest model yet, the X7, dropped 4.6% in 2020 from 21,574 to 20,579, but it’s clear that the model remains in demand, and an important part of BMW’s X lineup. Deliveries of the X7 dropped 10.1% during the fourth quarter, from 7,834 to 7,044. However, the Alpina XB7 was announced in May of 2020, and just shy of three months later in August, BMW announced that the manufacturing quota of the limited-production full-size luxury SAV had been met for the year.
The hottest-selling conventional BMW model during 2020 was the 3 Series, but with sales dropping 20.1% from 2019 to 2020 thanks to deliveries decreasing from 51,848 to 41,442, it is clear that another four-door BMW model moving to the forefront. BMW 2 Series sales grew an incredible 75.5% during 2020, with deliveries expanding from 8,330 to 14,616. The BMW 2 Series posted the largest percentage gain of any model for 2020, and during the fourth quarter, when 3 Series sales plummeted 26.9% from 17,410 to 12,722, 2 Series sales grew 98.6%, from 2,442 to 4,850.
The venerable 5 Series, the longest-running of any of BMW’s current series or models, continues to be a dependable seller even in uncertain times. Deliveries of the 5 Series fell 31.4% during 2020, from 39,051 to 26,785, but grew substantially in the fourth quarter, increasing 17% year-over-year from 9,479 to 11,087, and eclipsing pre-pandemic levels. Sales of the BMW 8 Series expanded 75.4% last year, from 4,410 to 7,737, likely thanks to the addition of the four-door 8 Series Gran Coupé to the lineup. Sales of BMW’s flagship grand tourer also grew 7.9% during the fourth quarter, with deliveries rising from 2,018 units to 2,177. The X6 experienced similar success, with 2020 sales of 7,313 units representing a 68.6% gain over 2019’s total of 4,337. For the fourth quarter, X6 sales boomed 144.7%, thanks to deliveries more than doubling from 1,171 to 2,866.
Every Mini model experienced a drop in sales during 2020, with the severity ranging from a 3.5% decline for the two-door Cooper models, from 7,415 to 8,119, to 35.3% for the countryman, which saw sales evaporate from 14,522 deliveries to 9,394. Two-door Cooper models and the Cooper convertible exhibited renewed energy at the end of the year though, with sales of hardtops increasing 17% from 2,128 to 2,489, and the convertible experiencing sales growth of 10.2%, from 795 units to 876 year-over-year.
The total of BMW’s pre-owned sales amounted to 253,450 last year, a 3.6% increase from the 244,664 deliveries that occurred in 2019. BMW Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) sales fell 2.9% from 123,290 in 2019 to 119,679 in 2020. BMW pre-owned sales expanded at a brisk pace during the month of December, with deliveries growing from 21,388 to 23,242, or 8.7%, year-over-year. BMW CPO deliveries posted a 16.8% gain for December, with unit sales growing from 9,858 to 11,516.
Mini pre-owned sales totaled 22,426 last year, 24.6% less than 2019’s total of 29,761, and the losses continued in December, with deliveries dropping 22.6% from 6,862 to 5,310 year-over-year. Mini CPO sales carded a loss of 25% for 2020, thanks to deliveries decreasing from 12,648 to 9,488. Mini CPO sales were also down 21.2% in December, with deliveries falling from 2,759 a year ago, to 2,175 last month.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]