A subsidiary of BMW, BMW of North America provides marketing, sales, and financial services through almost 900 dealerships and motorcycle retailers. The company imports and manufactures BMW brands, such as the 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 Series; the X5, X6, and 24M models; and the MINI and Rolls-Royce brands. Styles include coupes, convertibles, sedans, roadsters, sports activity, and luxury vehicles. Divisions include BMW Manufacturing (South Carolina), industrial-design firm DesignworksUSA, a parts distribution center, a technology office, a technical training center, and other operations in the US. Charged to oversee the group's largest single market -- the US -- BMW of North America was established in 1975.
High fuel and steel prices and a global credit crisis have had a negative effect on BMW's sales in the US. The North American division realized an average drop of over 20% for 2009 sales. In an attempt to assuage the financial impact, the company raised prices on its vehicles. The move was part of an overall group effort to bring costs in line and promote healthier returns. Other steps included cutting some 7,600 jobs across the entire group. Despite the cutbacks and the lagging sales, BMW North America is moving forward with its plan to expand production capacity at its plant in South Carolina, which is the exclusive manufacturing plant for all X5 and X6 sports activity vehicles. The company is investing some $750 million to boost capacity from 160,000 vehicles per year to 240,000 by 2012.
The automotive industry started to recover in late 2009, and BMW is moving ahead with several projects that will make their way to the US over the next three to five years. The company plans to redesign its 3 Series as a four-cylinder version; a twin-turbocharged, direct-injection version is being considered for the US. The Series 1 is undergoing a makeover to offer a four-door and coupe; it is scheduled to arrive in the US around 2011 or 2012. BMW of North America will be launching three new crossovers -- the six-cylinder X1, the X3 (produced in South Carolina), and the MINI -- in 2010 and 2011. It is also planning to introduce a four-cylinder diesel engine to a US market, which has had difficulty understanding that diesel is considered "green."
Electric models, known as Project i vehicles, are planned for sale in the US. Field testing began in 2010 for a scheduled 2013 market release. Parent BMW is building a $100 million plant in Washington State to manufacture light-weight carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic parts for the new vehicle.
BMW is positioned with its luxury model lines for when luxury becomes fashionable again; the company believes it will. Even with waning sales, BMW outsold Lexus in 2009. The company attributes its success to the broad choice of BMW styles and models, as well as the fact that it still offers financing to customers. The BMW Certified Pre-Owned business brings new and younger customers to the brand.
BMW's DesignworksUSA was born out of car design, but has evolved into a consultancy firm for design projects that include mass transit, consumer electronics, motorsports, aerospace, medical, and a lot more in between. DesignworksUSA serves such clients as Nokia, Adidas, John Deere, Hewlett Packard, and Boeing.