Does a 1 Series Sedan Make Sense for BMW?

The answer to that question is much clearer today than it was a few years ago but it still is debatable. The 3 series has been BMW ‘s bread and butter model since its launch in the 1980s. The 3 Series has been the one model in the BMW lineup that could make or break the manufacturer, thankfully it has continued to be smooth sailing but the waters are getting choppier.

Progressively the 3 series has moved up in both its size and price point, making it a much different offering today than it was at its E46 hayday. Today ‘s car is more in line with the 5 Series from two generations ago (E39) than a 3 series of the same period. This may be showing in sales as we have seen the decline of the latest F30 3 series in the US market but not in other markets around the world. The difference?

While there are many factors at play with sales one concept worth exploring is that outside the US the 3er is a car that is often provided by businesses as a perk of employment, a car that is part of large fleets and in the US it is mostly purchased or leased by individuals. These individuals are more sensitive to vehicle size and pricepoint than a large coorporation looking to dangle a car as a bonus to an employee. These large businesses have usually just bought cars based on name and past experience rather than comparative shopping. If Mr. Jones had a 328i for his last car and he was just given a promotion he is destined for a new 335i has been the way of life for many years but the current economy is changing that.

BMW has been reluctant to mention let alone entertain the idea of a smaller sedan than the 3 because it has feared it would impact the sales of its staple model to fleets and businesses outside the US, cutting into volume and profits. Businesses and individuals are less loyal to “brands ” since the downturn and will look for the most bang for the buck (or Euro). They now cross shop, look at other models and even look at used. The status quo is no more. Additionally, down sizing has become a way of life in the car world; it is more and more likely that people will move down to the next lowest model in a quest for savings and efficiency.

The competition in the forms of MB and Audi may force BMW ‘s hand to produce a smaller sedan as both manufactuers are slated to launch just such vehicles in the near future; or at least smaller four door vehicles that are not hatches. Will a 1 Series sedan take some prestige away from the brand or is it the car BMW so desperately needs? Personally we feel there is room in the lineup and with the ever expanding price and size of the 3 Series BMW could afford to offer a more entry luxury product, maybe even just for the US. BMW doesn ‘t offer its entry level 1 Series hatch in the US so it would not be that far fetched for them to do something similar and offer a sedan stateside and not to the rest of the world if that is what they want to do to protect 3 series volume sales.

One thing is certain, the entry level luxury/premium small car market is growing and BMW is out of that market in the US (and MINI is not mainstream enough for many buyers). There could be a smaller four door offering in the US and it most liely would sell very well, hopefully it happens sooner than later because it could become an enthusiasts dream.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
  • les

    They already make the car your talking about. It’s called the X1 sDrive 28i.

    I do think a smaller 4 door would sell great in the US. Put the turbo 3 cylinder it and watch it sell.

    • Hamburgler

      The X1 is a crossover, it is higher off the ground and it is not as sporty as a sedan. The X1 is really just a jacked up E91 3 Series wagon- which it is larger than. I am all for an E46 size sedan.

    • Evan

      I’m sorry, but the X1 is a compromised and stylistically unfortunate E91. I know I’m not the target for that vehicle and that it has sold very well, but just buy a wagon or go for it and buy an X5.

  • May be the 2 series gran coupe is the answer?

  • JRobUSC

    I think BMW needs a 1-Series sedan here as soon as humanly possible. The 3-Series is a great car, and personally I like the size, but it has gotten a lot more expensive. An E46-sized 128i sedan (or 115i or whatever they’re going to call that 1.5L 3-cyl turbo) starting around $30k and topping out at around $40k would be perfect. Get younger people into the brand with that car, have them graduate up through the models. With new 3’s leasing for 33-40% more than similar Benz C-class offerings, BMW needs an entry level car. At those figures a 3-Series is no longer entry level, and it’s not hard to see why sales are flat (both 3’s and 5’s lease for $100-130 more per month than Benz C’s and E’s — you could literally get an E-class for the payment of a 3-Series).

  • Evan

    I would buy a 1er/2er RWD sedan. I think the E90 is the largest a 3er should be and now that the F30 is bigger, it really feels like it should be the 5er. Something in between the E46 and the E90 in size with the latest efficient engines and technology with either hydraulic steering or a miraculously and significantly improved EPAS would be perfect. Small, chuckable, responsive. In other words, a BMW in the vein of past BMWs and the moniker of the “ultimate driving machine”. At present, as has been stated before here and on many forums, if BMW did away with the bundled and contrived lines and went back to its former equipment strategies (premium, sport, tech packages) available with all engines and colors inside and out plus dialed in more of the steering feel and feedback, the F30 would be great. At present, it’s a good car and not a great BMW. Let’s pray the LCI addresses this.

  • The biggest problem with the 1-series is price. By the time you’ve put 3 options in the car, its already costing $45,000. Why not just buy a 3. BMW really needs to figure out their pricing.

  • Sand4130

    1,2,3,5,6,X…BMW has lost the plot where are the diesels and why follow Audi and MB. Americans are too large for the 1 and 2. No wagons! Be bold the brand looks tired and misguided and every car is plus sized. The Fseries! $45k for a 3 series really. Time for a used E39!

  • ulrichd

    Yes maybe, but just because the new 3-series is now so big I think it’s a 5-series every time I see one.

  • lavardera

    It makes sense to me, and frankly that’s all I really care about. If it does not make sense to BMW, well, I guess we won’t see it. But lets not wag the dog by the tail over it.

  • Dr Obnxs

    BMW seems happy to hyper fragment the market with continuum of offerings with all those pointless acronyms like SAV, FAST or whatever else I’ve butchered or can’t remember (there’s a message there for BMW marketing). Why would there every even be a wringing of hands over hyperfragmenting the brand at it’s entry level? BMW can fret about 3 series sales all they want. But if all the new Yuppies buy an Audi or a MB, there is a good chance that those buyers will be lost to the brand forever. Protecting the 3 sales by hobbling the product offerings from BMW is just a losing strategy. Other brands aren’t going to hobble thier offerings to protect the 3, so BMWs choice is really to turn the 1 series portfolio into a broad enough range of cars to provide a good entery level for all the segments they compete in, or just let some of those sales go to the competition. When viewed like that, the decision is both easy and obvious.

  • calimacproman

    undoubtedly yes, the current 1 series coupe is neat but a sedan would be a great addition imo