I've been saying for months that BMW really screwed the pooch by making making too many radical changes to the F30 too quickly (especially for BMW loyalists) and they're driving customers to the competition.
The sales figures don't lie, especially relative to the competition. Keep in mind that the 328i Sedan has been BMW's volume car in the U.S. for a very long time. Then consider the fact that BMW's YTD 3 Series sales overall are DOWN from 2011 while the rest of the industry is substantially up in all segments. Some of that may be slower sales of the remaining E9X cars (coupes & convertibles) because customers know all new models are coming soon, and some sales are being lost to the X3 and X1, but the obvious answer is that the F30 is a big sales disappointment. With a brand new volume leader model in the showrooms, BMW should be killing it right now, but they're not. Why? We all know why:
- The "lines" packing strategy is terrible -- too many forced choices. Do you want sport seats or tan leather? or would you like to pay for a line plus the M-Sport package to get both? WTF, BMW?
- The packaging is also uncompetitive in terms of price
- The car feels less distinct from the competition, less traditionally BMW-like in many aspects
- The lease incentives are still competitive, but other manufacturers (Infiniti and Mercedes, for example) have caught up while BMW has slipped in this area. I think this is a big reason why the 3 sold so poorly in August -- incentives were better just a couple months ago.
- The car is overwhelmed with technology, whether you want it or not. Start/Stop is non-optional, iDrive is non-optional. Many people won't care, but enough traditionalists will to give them pause about buying a rolling computer. The fact that BMW is allowing dealers to allow stop/start to be disabled by default clearly shows that this is an issue.
And I'm not buying one excuse I've seen repeated around these boards -- that the F30 has limited supply. Just search cars.com and you'll see that's not true with the exception of the 335 in some markets. But the 335 doesn't sell in volume in the U.S. -- as I recall, the 328i outsells it somewhere between 10:1 and 20:1. And there are PLENTY of 328s available in the U.S. I'm in Southern California and cars.com shows me over 1,300 (!) new 2012 and 2013 328 Sedans within a 100 mile radius. No, this isn't a supply issue, this is a demand issue.
BMW still has the opportunity to salvage the F30, but I think they're stubborn enough not to because they're fine losing traditional buyers as long as they pick up some share of ECO-buyers, etc. They'll convince themselves that it's OK to lose traditional BMW drivers (especially 3 Series drivers) as long as the make up some volume with other models. But BMW could be performing so much better by serving both customers -- it's kind of sad to watch them walk away from their old core market. Long term, I think they will regret mortgaging the core of their brand because they will inevitably become a company without a clear mission.
For my part, my comparative experience with my E92 and my wife's F30 definitely means I'll be looking at an E82 if I stay with BMW. Consider that the 2013 E82 is the last year BMW will make a car with an NA I6 and hydraulic steering. My disappointment with our F30 means I'm unlikely to buy another 3 Series any time soon. And that makes me a perfect example of why these sales stats look the way they do.