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This may be the most crowded and convoluted luxury car market in the history of the automobile. There are niches of niches of niches, with cars like the BMW X4 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe, that occupy the smallest of customer bases. Because of this, BMW wants to sort of scale back and refine its model portfolio a bit, tighten it up a bit, while Mercedes-Benz actually wants to increase and expand.

“If we talk about individual body shapes, we are sitting at about 33 or 34 now in our portfolio, and we have laid a clear path up to 2020 to go to about 40,” said Ola Kaellenius, Head of Product Development at Mercedes-Benz. But the three-pointed star doesn’t feel that these new vehicles will just be odd niches. “There are still segments we feel we could capture, and I’m not just talking about niches of niches, I’m also talking about segments with very relevant volumes.”

However, BMW feels otherwise, feeling the need to tighten up its model line. “The checkerboard is getting quite full. There are not many more concepts. And I think we are reaching the phase where we will start to take some out — it’s too complicated, and there are too many. And there are products whose market has dropped and not recovered.” said BMW’s own Ian Robertson. “The areas where recovery didn’t happen were places like roadsters and convertibles, so most manufacturers are extending the life span of those types of products or looking for joint venture partners.”

This doesn’t mean that BMW will just be dropping models, though. “We will refine it, shall we say,” said Robertson. So maybe just getting rid of some of the niche vehicles built off of existing models.

So while Mercedes-Benz expands its lineup to an almost crazy-sounding 40 vehicles, BMW wants to refine its lineup. We can’t say for sure which plan will work, or maybe they both work, but it’s interesting to see the two Germans having two completely opposite game plans for the future, as we all know how much zee Germans like to copy each other.


BMW and Mercedes-Benz product lineups have grown exponentially in recent years, and for Mercedes, that's not about to stop. But BMW is more circumspect about further luxury-class fragmentation.

Mercedes announced its new EQ lineup of electric vehicles last year, and even beyond the subbrand, product development head Ola Kaellenius says, "There is portfolio growth still to come.

"If we talk about individual body shapes, we are sitting at about 33 or 34 now in our portfolio, and we have laid a clear path up to 2020 to go to about 40," said Kaellenius, who moved over from the top sales and marketing job on Jan. 1. "There are still segments we feel we could capture, and I'm not just talking about niches of niches, I'm also talking about segments with very relevant volumes."

He added: "We will only do it if we have a sensible business case," and he said some models could be dropped in time.

"If we see a segment that is not performing ... we don't have any problem cutting a branch off. But, yes, there is portfolio growth still to come. Once we're at this 40-ish, we'll see if there is creativity in the market for another 10."

As for BMW, Ian Robertson, head of global sales and marketing, said: "The checkerboard is getting quite full. There are not many more concepts. And I think we are reaching the phase where we will start to take some out -- it's too complicated, and there are too many. And there are products whose market has dropped and not recovered."

He said: "The areas where recovery didn't happen were places like roadsters and convertibles, so most manufacturers are extending the life span of those types of products or looking for joint venture partners."

Will BMW reduce the number of body styles? "We will refine it, shall we say," Robertson said.

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