With new cars in its stable, will BMW Philippines retake the sales lead?

First, the all-important context.

In recent memory, the best-selling luxury car brand in our country has always been BMW. Last year, BMW Philippines (aka SMC Asia Car Distributors Corporation) sold 1,160 units, clearly beating Lexus (861) and Mercedes-Benz (738). In 2023, however, Lexus has taken the fight to—more like dominated—BMW by moving 897 cars in the first six months versus its German counterpart’s 557 vehicles (Mercedes did 490).

Honestly, I personally think that my title sounds stupid. Because I really can’t see how anyone can beat Lexus in the luxury segment this year—especially with the LM convincing wealthy customers to pay more for what is essentially an opulent version of the Toyota Alphard. This looks like a runaway victory for the Japanese marque.

Also, in assessing sales performance, I don’t like using excuses to explain a slump. To be fair to all players, a lead is a lead—supply issues notwithstanding.

Last week, BMW previewed five new models before the automotive media. Tempting to think that these latest arrivals can help BMW with its sales contest against Lexus. But whom am I kidding? With the cars’ prices (XM, P15,890,000; 4-Series Gran Coupe, P4,890,000; M3 CS, P16,890,000; X5, P5,990,000; and X6, P8,990,000), the distributor would be fortunate to sniff the behind of its nemesis.

Now, BMW Philippines can deny it all it wants—that sales ranking is not important—but trust me, these things are laurels on any car company’s cap.

Good thing the president of SMCACDC, Spencer Yu, hasn’t lost sight of what matters.

“Sales drive profit, making them crucial in any business strategy,” he told me. “However, striking the right balance between the two is extremely important to us. We steer clear of risking profitability by resorting to big incentives or discounts just to meet sales targets. We firmly believe that all it takes are well-designed tactics that align our sales efforts with long-term business goals.”

Spoken like a war general. Yu, by the way, used to be the sales boss of Lexus Manila.

“A higher level of service sets us apart from other brands,” he added. “We pay attention to the smallest details, which creates loyal customers.”

I have never owned a luxury car—not even an entry-level model or a secondhand one. So I will never claim to understand how a luxury-segment customer thinks. But if I were a premium car owner, I would want my brand to actually have fewer clients, not more. Why? Because the more customers a brand needs to tend to, the bigger the challenge to meet their requirements.

Of course, this is not to trivialize Lexus’s milestone. Like I said, an achievement is an achievement. I tip my hat off to them.

But maybe, this is a blessing in disguise for BMW. Here’s to the remaining five months of the year. May the best luxury brand come out on top.

FILL YOUR TANK: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

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