How far would you go to be the best selling automaker in a given class? If you're BMW, you employ a tactic that involves loaner vehicles and dealers to retain your crown as being the best-selling luxury brand in the U.S.
Bloomberg is reporting that BMW paid its dealers as much as $1,750 in December to buy BMW vehicles to be used in loaner fleets - vehicles that would be offered to customers who drop off their current vehicle for service. The program worked as BMW edged out Lexus by 1,400 vehicles.
Now it should be noted that many automakers have programs like this. But according to folks who spoke with Bloomberg, BMW was very forceful with this program.
“Auto companies do things like this all the time to set sales records or make claims that they are the best in show. BMW can beat their chest this year. But you can question whether they did it on the same terms as their competitors,” said Maryann Keller, an independent auto consultant in Stamford, Connecticut.
BMW spokesman Kenn Sparks told Bloomberg in an email that the loaner program is "an important part of BMW’s customer-satisfaction and marketing plan,” and the company does periodically give dealers incentives to put new cars in their fleets. Sparks declined to say how much this program helped in terms of sales.
But there is a danger with BMW trying to be number one in the luxury car segment. Eric Lyman, senior analyst with TrueCar says BMW's resale value has been slipping. According to TrueCar data, a three-year BMW vehicle retains 48.4 percent of its new car value. Other luxury brands retain 49.8 percent.
“The luxury market is only so big.Do they think that if they have more BMWs out there that people will want to buy them even more? There are consequences for this,” said Keller.