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BMW knocked over in the rush for new 328i

Worth the wait: BMW 328i buyers will have to wait up to five months before getting their hands on a new model.

Customers wait up to five months for latest 3 Series as turbo power hits the spot

31 May 2012

BMW’s shift to turbo power on downsized engines is paying handsome dividends, with the Australian customer waiting list for the top-selling 3 Series model, the 328i, blowing out to five months.

The German importer is hoping the arrival in June of the new 320i – with the same N20 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine but with less power and fewer bells and whistles than the 328i – will help relieve the pressure on 328i supply.

Nevertheless, BMW Group Australia managing director Phil Horton said this week that his company was trying to round up more supplies of the 328i to alleviate showroom pain.

“The new N20 engine really does seem to have hit the sweet spot,” he said. “Currently we are sold out on that car for the next four to five months.

“That’s good. What’s not good is that we have customers who don’t like to wait for cars.

“One of the things I have discovered about the Australian market is that customers don’t like waiting, even when (the cars) are coming from 10,000 miles away.

“We are doing everything we can to increase the number of 328is, and now 320is are arriving on the market as well, I think we will see those balance out.” Mr Horton said customers who ordered special-build cars with features from BMW’s extensive options list were more happy to wait for delivery, but others who saw a car on the showroom floor wanted to get it as soon as possible.

14 center imageThe economic crisis in Europe is helping the cause, with BMW able to divert more stock to in-demand markets such as Australia due to a general malaise in the European car market.

Priced at $57,600 (plus on-road costs), the 320i is $7000 cheaper than the 328i, although the latter gets 45kW more power and a range of extra features.

Speaking this week at the Australian media launch of the 320i and 318i, Mr Horton said that, despite current demand for the mid-range 328i that arrived on the Australian market in February, BMW expected the 320i to resume its customary position as 3 Series top-seller.

He said the previous 320i – with a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine – had accounted for more than 50 per cent of 3 Series sales for most of its model life, although that had dropped to about 40 per cent in the final year, after the arrival of the diesel 320d.

So far this year, the 3 Series has achieved 1269 sales from the launch range of three models, but that is well short of reigning champion Mercedes-Benz C-Class’s 2149 sales.

Describing the medium luxury car market as “massively competitive”, Mr Horton said Mercedes-Benz had been doing well with its C-Class, and BMW would need time to catch up.

“Clearly, they have the full range available on the market and have for some time,” he said.

“From next month, we will start to have our full range available in the market, and hopefully we will see more of a balanced situation.” Mr Horton said he hoped the 3 Series would be able to catch the C-Class in monthly sales by the end of the year.

“My ambition would be that, by the time we get to the last quarter of the year, we will be at least on par if not selling ahead of them on a monthly rate,” he said.

BMW’s 3 Series range has just grown to five variants. Later in the year, that will be expanded with the arrival of a hybrid version, the ActiveHybrid 3, and then the Touring wagon – with a choice of powertrains – in early 2013.

The two-door coupe and cabrio versions are expected to arrive late next year, capped off by the flagship M3 in 2014.

In overall passenger car and SUV sales, BMW expects to maintain its current lead over Mercedes-Benz and Audi, at least partly because of its dominance in luxury SUVs.

So far this year, BMW has sold 2206 SUVs, compared with Audi’s 1353 and Mercedes-Benz’s 536, although the latter has been without M-Class stock for most of that time.

Like the new 3 Series, the BMW X3 has been given a boost with the arrival of the N20 turbo four-cylinder engine in the 28i, where it has also replaced the normally aspirated 2.8-litre inline six.

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