BMW to Kill Both 5 & 3 Series Wagons for the US?

If you ask BMW insiders about about 5GT killing the 5 Series wagon, they ‘ll tell you that (a) the decision hasn ‘t been officially made and (b) if the wagon dies in the US, it ‘s not solely because of the 5GT. So why is the 5 Series wagon disappearing? Simply put its sales vs. the costs associated with bringing the car to US market. I think it ‘s worth noting that there are many within BMW who lament the notion of not having wagons in the US. However, ultimately BMW is a small automaker that can ‘t afford to spend money on products it can ‘t recoup in sales.

So the same for the 3 Series wagon then? While we haven ‘t had as many conversations about the 3er as we have about the 5er, the writing is on the wall. We ‘d give it a 20% chance of living on past the E91 platform. Again, with more people moving into X3s and the upcoming X1 (and 3GT) BMW is simply trying to hedge bets when it comes to investing in products for the US market.

As a former owner of a 3 Series Touring I can attest to what a perfect blend of utility of performance the vehicle is. Yet, the fact remains that there aren ‘t that many of me out there buying these cars. This is especially true of the 5 Series wagon. At over $60,000 equipped it ‘s not something that is in the realm of possibility for many interested parties. And here ‘s where it gets interesting. There ‘s a wagon stigma in this country that (demographically speaking) lies squarely in the middle of the type of person who can afford a $60k 5er Touring and would benefit from the utility. Instead these people (scarred from wagons of their youth) are buying crossovers and SUVs. Yet it ‘s the younger generation (i.e. the people that bring you BimmerFile and/or read it) that are more open to wagon ownership. It ‘s just unfortunate that many of these folks can ‘t afford the upfront costs of a new E60 wagon (or even an E91).

So what does all this mean? BMW will likely kill the wagons for the next generation 3 and 5 series. However, the generation after that could see a rebirth as the buying power of generations shift. Time will tell.

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  • chas58

    I think you could be right about the post-baby boom generations. I have pretty much avoided ever owning a car with a trunk, preferring “hot hatch” or what has become known as a sports compact car. So, in BMW land, the wagon was a nice progression for me. It allows me to keep my hatchback functionality, without having the generic looking sedan everyone else seems to have. The 51/49 (F/R) weight distribution is a nice bonus.

    Wagons are expensive in the US. I could have leased a 335i for less than a 328iT. Most of the wagons I have seen sticker for $50K, even though I managed to get one for just over 30K. Exclusivity has its price

    To me, having a car with a trunk has the same stigma as a wagon probably has to the pre-minivan generation.

  • Nathaniel

    I have to question your reasoning… If the cost of bringing the car over is so high, why does BMWNA bring over top-end cars to “test the waters”, for example the 135 (which is more expensive than a 323) instead of a 118d, or the 335d (Diesel buyers are interested in the low fuel consumption, right?) instead of the 320d or even the 330d.

    It has more to do with BMWNA protecting their premium brand than satisfying customers. There’s a huge variety of cars available on the website but the NA websites have a tiny subset of those cars.

  • Mark

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you said chas58.

  • just got my first in person look at the 5GT this weekend. the new 5er wagon beats it up and down on looks.

    if the 5GT is what the american public wants to drive, then i’ll stick to my 1st gen MINI and my 2002. the 5GT is the first BMW that i’ve seen that actually looks worse in person than in pictures.

  • Babak

    Nathaniel, I know your question was towards Gabe, but I’ll give my opinion on some of it. I don’t get the first part about doing a 135 instead of a 118d. Just because the car is less expensive doesn’t mean it’s less expensive to certify for sale in the States. The 118d would actually very likely cost more (because of the diesel aspect). And it would have much less chance of success.

    With regards to the 320d or 330d instead of a 335d, I don’t think the reasoning was related to cost. BMW brought over their most powerful diesel, which still had better consumption than its petrol counterpart. It also doesn’t make as much “diesel engine noise” as the smaller 2.0L models. I think the mission was to prove that diesels can be very powerful and clean (both pollution and sound) yet still more efficient than gas engines. I think it was a marketing decision, and it makes sense. (However I should point out that in my opinion the 335d doesn’t make too much sense, especially without the government reductions, which we don’t have in Canada).

  • lava

    I looked at the BMW NA web site, specifically the page that shows All Models. Frankly I’m shocked that they offer so many different models here, and I realize its a subset of what they offer at home. Its really hard to understand the reasoning of “they are a small manufacturer” who can’t offer to many models. They have dozens of models already – it hardly seems like they are trying to keep the production offerings “lean”?

  • lava

    Commenting on another idea in this article – that BMW may be on the way to phasing out wagons. If they do any market research into the demographic of buyers yet to “come of age” would they find that there was a yet to emerge market for wagons over SUVs, a generation that saw SUVs as a poster child of the previous generation’s values. If they in fact saw that in their research you would think that they would make preparations to feed that emerging demand? Case in point – this is exactly what Detroit did so badly and left them standing with their pants down.

    Are they taking a long enough view? Or does the younger gen really not carry the demand for a wagon?

  • Chas58…. Sounds familiar… CCAish even!

    I know we will never own a “wagon” thanks to my wife being traumatized by her parents and there 80’s wagons. The big 3 wagon stigma is very real for a few generations! Im impartial myself and like both versions. I even have my young ones liking the “wagons”!

  • Erik

    No!!!!!!!! I’m 39 and my wife is 36, and we love wagons and hatches. My wife currently drives a 535xiT with a 6 speed manual. I run a family business so I leased the car for the better deduction, but now we might have to buy it. Didn’t really want to spend 70k for the family car when we got it, but the fact that it existed with a manual trans, forced me into it. 😉

    There must be something wrong with us. BMW says the US won’t buy wagons/hatches, but my wife’s last car was a e46 wagon, and we still own our 1997 supercharged 318ti (since new). I REALLY want the new 5 wagon. I like the GT but don’t want to spend that kind of money and not get a manual transmission (would give up manual for the Diesel).

  • Evan

    BMW brought the GT here and has outwardly stated that it was not designed at all for the USA and really was for Europe only. So was that worth the certification costs?

    BMW needs to continue bringing the 3er and 5er Tourings here. I guess if the F31 doesn’t make it I can try and find a used E91 wagon, but I’d prefer new in a few years. They also don’t market the wagons much at all. If they put some marketing money into them, they’d probably do a little better. I still remember from my childhood when the E34 5 series Touring debuted and in the commercials had that double sunroof, driving briskly along winding roads. That was when I fell for BMW wagons.

    PLEASE BRING THEM OVER!! Especially if you’re subjecting us to the GT and continuing X-series cars.

    Thank you.

  • As somone who had a 6 speed E61 in my late 20s (blew the demographic I guess) I can attest that it is the best of both worlds-sporty and practical. I am not sure why the masses can’t see it that way. I am sure the wagons are dead though we will never officially hear about it- BMW just won’t launch them.

    I would be all over this F11 but at the same time if the GT is priced the same (and same mpg)I would choose that as the seating is more functional.

    There is a lot to debate on this topic-especially since the EU is set to see the F11 in ///M form from rumors we are hearing.


  • carl

    we have a 02 540i wagon, its awesome – looks great, hold alot of crap, pulls away from most other cars at the light (although 300hp isn’t what it used to be).

    saw the 5GT, the thing is huge! not sure how many BMW’s customers live in cities, but the length of the car is a big deal, & the 5GT is way too big. and ugly. nice interior tho

    the new audi a6 wagon is pretty sweet tho, esp with the turbo V6, unfort i like bmw’s way better then audi’s. maybe the new caddy sportwagon, esp if it gets the 575hp v8?


  • Mark

    When I replace my current 5 series E61 touring I don’t want an X1, X3, or X5 and especially not a GT. To quote BMW “The new BMW 5 Series Touring perfect symbiosis of driving pleasure, efficiency, versatility and sporting elegance”. If that’s true then sell it in the US. OK volume will be low, but Mercedes Benz and Audi both have premium wagons in the US, and a 328 touring (if there is one) is a big step down from the F11. As for the GT: I’m not going there, period.

  • TMQ

    In the U.S. the light truck loop hole dictates that wagons are at a big disadvantage: compared to crossovers, they are cars (rather than light trucks) and are thus subject to more stringent fuel economy standards. Every car maker wants to exploit that.

    Since the wagon models are made in Europe, BMW will make more money selling X5s and of course the expensive GT version.

    The sale of the E60 in the U.S. has been low because BMW only makes the more expensive 535xiT. I think most will be happy with the 528iT and 528xiT versions.

  • Mike

    This is ONE AREA where America SHOULD follow Europe! The Touring cars are simply AWESOME! I drove one across Germany a couple Summers ago and it was THAT driving experience which lead me to BMW. Never in my life had I given a crap about cars until then. They were just a means of getting from point A to point B. Those two weeks completely transformed me!

  • barry

    I ADORE my BMW sport wagons. BMW is the only brand of car I have ever purchased, but if BMW NA doesn’t give us the option of buying the next generation 3 and 5 tourings I will be looking into other marques. The GT is really cool and very good looking but I can’t put my dogs in the back, and it’s nowhere near as pretty nor is it as functional as the tourings.

  • Mark

    Another comment: I purchased my E61 wagon in large part based on availability of the N54. Coming from a 98 Audi A4 I wanted a true SPORT wagon, and the E61 5 series touring delivers in spades.

    I picked it up in Munich on ED, and the delivery specialist comment that this was an unusual car (I guess for US market). That said if Audi and Mercedes Benz still offer competing wagons in US market, why is BMW dropping out? The GT is no substitute for a sedan based wagon, and even lacks the same cargo capacity. What gives?

  • KTown

    Yet another mistake by BMWNA. They also waited too long to introduce diesels. If they would’ve acted sooner they could own the market.

  • chas58

    Its not only Audi and Mercedes. Cadillac and Acura are bringing new wagons to the market too. There is plenty to cross shop if BMW leaves a hole here. the CTS-V would certainly be worth a look for someone who could not have a 5er touring.

  • lava

    This is a pretty strong outpouring of sentiment for the wagons from a readership that I would otherwise assume were more interested in performance sedans. In fact I’m seeing more comments here in this thread than almost any other post I’ve ever seen on BF.

  • Mike

    Lava….. these ARE performance vehicles….. sedan or not!

  • Mark

    Lava – read my post and others above. The E61 is a SPORTS wagon. Agreed its not track worthy, but it handles like a sedan, and with the N54 (my main reason for purchasing) its a fun car to drive, but has outstanding cargo carrying capacity when I need it.

    BMW is really making a bad call if they drop wagons from the US market. As many people who have posted here note the X vehicles don’t have the same driving characteristics as sedan based vehicles, while the GT is huge, bad for city driving and parking, and has worse gas milage than the F11 or E61.

  • Bill W.

    Another vote for the F11 — bring it!! Won’t bother to expound because it’s been stated several different ways above already. But it’s gorgeous and we want it!

  • coming from an e91 owner, this really saddens me… my eyes have been on a 5 Series wagon as our next car and I guess when that time comes it’ll be used / several years old. 🙁

    What really saddens me is the fact that I never would / will get the chance for an M5 Wagon like our European friends… oh well.