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BMW and Mercedes want more crossovers
BMW, Mercedes execs plead for more crossovers
Both luxury brands see lower car sales
DETROIT -- Even as they launch competing midsize cars, luxury archrivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz face a common challenge.
BMW rolled out its redesigned 5-series sedan at the auto show here last week, and Mercedes-Benz showed its E-class coupe. But both automakers want to get more crossovers into U.S. dealer showrooms, executives said in interviews.
In 2016, both brands saw car unit sales fall while unit sales of trucks, including crossovers, rose.
Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America, said that he would like to see an even split between crossovers -- "sport activity vehicles" in the company's jargon -- and cars.
"In the part of the market that we're in, obviously 50 percent would be a good place to be," Willisch told Automotive News. "Right now we are a little over 40, so that gives you a clear indication where we need to be in the future."
Last year, crossovers rose to 42 percent of BMW North America's sales, up from 33 percent in 2015, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
BMW is adding capacity at its Spartanburg, S.C., plant to build the X7 large crossover, due to join its lineup late next year.
BMW global sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson said the company is adding capacity, especially for the X3 compact crossover.
"The X3 in this generation has been supply-constrained," Robertson said. "We are expanding capacity quite dramatically. So we're localizing that car in China, we're localizing it in South Africa, as well as increasing our capacity in Spartanburg for it. I think we're going to see a good lift out of that."
Dietmar Exler, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, said the automaker's global allocation of crossovers will increase U.S. dealers' supply slightly this year.
Mercedes' crossover mix rose last year, climbing to 47 percent of U.S. sales from 40 percent in 2015.
But Exler added that balancing production to demand is tricky.
"On the one hand, it's always terrible if you lose sales because you don't have enough inventory," he said. "On the other hand, if your product is in that much demand -- you want it to be in demand.
"Ideally with some of the niche cars, you want to have one less than the market demand. But not hundreds less. Just one less."
Crossovers are claiming a larger share of U.S. sales at BMW, Mercedes-Benz.
2015 Share 2016 Share
Car 67% 58%
Truck 33% 42%
Car 60% 53%
Truck* 40% 47%
*Excludes Metris, Sprinter sales
Source: Automotive News Data Center