BMW hopes that the imminent 6 Series, 1 Series and X3 will present the Munich-based manufacturer with more new segments in its drive to eclipse Mercedes-Benz as Europe’s top premium car company by 2008. But the Benz is bound to fight back…

BMW hopes that the imminent 6 Series, 1 Series and X3 will present the Munich-based manufacturer with more new segments in its drive to eclipse Mercedes-Benz as Europe’s top premium car company by 2008. But the Benz is bound to fight back…
recently quoted BMW member of the board for marketing Michael Ganal as saying that BMW planned to sell 1,4 million cars annually by 2008, up from 1,05 million units last year, and did not rule out the brand’s entry into additional segments in coming years.
BMW officials believe their decision to focus exclusively on premium cars helps them against Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz parent company DaimlerChrysler participates in both luxury and mass-market segments (Smart, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Jeep).
When they're calculating sales numbers, BMW officials count Mini and Rolls-Royce, saying they are also premium brands. But BMW doesn't count any DaimlerChrysler brand but Mercedes-Benz, the report said.
An analyst for Global Insight Automotive in London, said BMW won't have an easy job overtaking its long-time competitor, “however it counts the numbers”.
"Mercedes-Benz is not standing still, either," the British analyst said. "Even within existing segments it's adding lots of body styles and filling in every gap in segmentation."
While it remains unlikely that Mercedes-Benz will expand the current A-Class into new A- and B-Class vehicles, CARtoday.com recently reported that the Stuttgart-based manufacturer planned to conquer the US market with its GST crossover SUV (due to go into production at the Tuscaloosa plant in 2005). The four-door CLE sports model (a concept of which was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show recently) was intended to create a market niche.
BMW's marketing department believes the luxury sector will grow 50 per cent worldwide by 2015, compared to only 30 per cent for the mass market. And that’s probably why the Munich-based manufacturer is feeling bullish about the 1 Series (aimed primarily at Europe) and the X3 (which could prove popular in the US).
Last year, Mercedes-Benz outsold BMW by 1,27 million (including commercial vehicles) to 1,05 million.
BMW rallies in defence of Chris Bangle
Meanwhile, Ganal and other BMW executives continued to defend the controversial designs of their chief stylist, Chris Bangle. Bangle's designs for recent BMW models, including the Z4, 7-, 6- and 5 Series, have sparked much debate – not least here in South Africa and on CARtoday.com’s comment pages.
Asked if the designs were intended to create more interest by polarising opinion, Ganal said: "The styling should not polarise, it should convince. It's not our intent to polarise. There will always be some people who don't like them. But polarising is not the name of the game. Heading for No 1 premium manufacturer, BMW has to meet the needs of target groups."
The X3 and 6 Series go on sale in Europe early next year and both models have been earmarked for the South African market in the near future. Between 70 000 and 80 000 X3s will be built for BMW by Magna Steyr in Austria. BMW anticipates sales of 15 000 to 20 000 6 Series coupes a year, the report said.

Original article from Car