Will new BMW NA CEO Bernhard Kuhnt get the brand back on track?

BMW X3, Interesting, News | June 27th, 2017 by 9
BMW Bernhard Kuhnt 750x500

BMW has had some struggles in North America in the past couple of years. While the Bavarians have led all premium automakers in sales for …

BMW has had some struggles in North America in the past couple of years. While the Bavarians have led all premium automakers in sales for some time, other brands like Mercedes-Benz and Audi have caught up, with the former eclipsing BMW. A lot of the problem has been with dealer stock, confusing model lines and body styles and the lack of competitiveness with its new fantastic competitors. However, many U.S. dealerships are optimistic that the new leadership at BMW North America can turn things around.

Bernhard Kuhnt has been named the CEO of BMW North America, following the retirement of current CEO Ludwig Willisch. “Bernhard has to take it to the next level and at a time when there’s a lot of things happening — a lot of electromobility discussions going on, a lot of autonomous driving going on, a lot of tech being delivered or developed here,” said BMW board member Ian Robertson. “He’s going to be busy.”

Indeed, he will be. Kuhnt will have to turn around not only the sales for BMW North America but also some of its reputation. While most fans still understand that BMW still shows shreds of the Ultimate Driving Machine, customers aren’t really seeing it anymore. Rather than the brand they remember, they see dealerships stocked with bloated GT cars, SUVs and more body styles than they can count. It’s confusing and off-putting for a lot of customers.

G01 BMW X3 Spartanburg 71 830x623

“BMW has really lost their mojo,” said Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst for KBB, who spoke about how many customers think highly of BMW but just aren’t buying them. “People are looking and saying, ‘There is supercompetitive product out there,’ and choosing something else.”

Fortunately, BMW does have a few new models out right now that will help the brand dramatically. The new 5 Series has only been on sale a few months, so it should help 2017 out a bit. The new BMW X3, which is the most redesigned X3 ever, goes on sale later this year and will dramatically help the brand. Though, BMW’s sales for 2017 should be pretty flat still, as those cars won’t have been on sale long. However, both of them should really help sales for 2018 and onward.

Many people inside BMW and U.S. BMW dealers feel that Kuhnt is the right man to turn things around and get BMW back on track. Many dealership owners and managers have spent some time with him, claiming that he’s “open-minded,” and “down-to-earth,”.

2018 BMW X3 xLine 12 830x553

“He’s run a dealership — that is very valuable from our perspective,” said Mark Smith, co-owner of Principle Auto, which owns two BMW stores in Texas.

Ludwig Willisch has been doing a good job and has BMW on the right path, but it will be up to Kuhnt to finish the job, something many believe he can do. “Ludwig started us on a path to build great relationships with the dealers, and that hadn’t always been part of their program,” said Mark Smith. “Bernhard has to take the baton and take the next step of the relay.”

[Source: Autoweek]

9 responses to “Will new BMW NA CEO Bernhard Kuhnt get the brand back on track?”

  1. milky_cereal says:

    Try leasing one, and you’ll see why sales have dropped. With huge increases from buyers that are used to competitive leases, it is a big shock and is slowing sales significantly. Look at 3 Series sales, which are bread and butter, and heavily leased. The other things are important and play in to the problems, but the sticker shock is the #1 obstacle at this time.

  2. Michael says:


  3. Max says:

    Tha brand is on track..20% up in China for example!
    Its what milky just described, everyone is leasing and especially Merc gives away their garbage literally for free. I wonder how long this will last, or when we’ll see the next crisis because of this.
    If u cant afford a BMW, Merc, Audi or whatever maybe u shouldnt “buy” it heh?!
    And very often these people are the biggest complainers too…

  4. Arunabh says:

    Its nice to see that, at least, self acceptance has started to happen at BMW end and accordingly they have started to take necessary measures.

    Personally, i always believed that BMW is making one big mistake by straying away from its USP of distinct designs and peerless driving dynamics. These two thing are something that are in WIP stage for almost all carmakers and its a like a black art to be able to come up with these 2 qualities spot on everytime.

    While all the carmakers tried to become next BMW, BMW went all directionless by diluting itself and thats what is reflecting now in terms of sale. The statement “Rather than the brand they remember, they see dealerships stocked with bloated GT cars, SUVs and more body styles than they can count. It’s confusing and off-putting for a lot of customers” says it all.” When you are known for the qualities and abilities so rare then why do you want to shed those qualities?

    The other thing that happened, as a result of dilution, that it got right in the middle of the herd of lesser accomplished car makers and then it become the game of fighting for a slice of pie. BMW should realize that what they were originally was what is required to get the biggest piece of cake without putting extra efforts on marketing etc. There aren’t many companies out there whose products speak for themselves. BMW was one such rare company.

    By going through that Autoweek article one more thing became clear to me (and the one that i feared has become the case with BMW) . They have become the case of objective driven company so much that they have ignored the subjective aspects entirely. And it shows in their vehicles now. In essence, no one can fault 7 & 5 for what they offer. Everything is mission accomplished. But its just like ticking the boxes. When subjective matters are taken into account its then the sum of all parts becomes greater than the whole which, frankly, BMW was all about at first place.

    New X3 is a testament to the fact that everything is not lost at BMW and rescue work has started. But its just a start. BMW still has a long way to go to recover the lost glory. They should understand that driving pleasure & BMW are marriage made in heaven. Driving pleasure shouldn’t be an option dependent thing (ex – get an M-spec to get steering feel, DDC for better ride and handling balance etc.) with BMW. Every single automobile with BMW roundel has to be honed keeping peerless driving qualities and outstanding distinct designs in mind.

    Its only then BMW will remain king of this business.

    • Max says:

      Sorry but u are so wrong, unfortunately.
      Every generation of people is different and its changing all the time, or can u tell me why is car sharing so popular? 20years ago no one could ever dreamed of or imaged that sharing their own car is an option at all. It was a status, a lifestyle to own YOUR individual car.
      That is changing rapidly, so is BMW. If they dont, they will disappear! And the next generation of people might not even have a drivers license anymore because they just use autonomous cars. Its actually pretty sad, because sheer driving pleasure will be gone with that. I am a big petrolhead myself, but I understand the reasons why BMW (and others) are doing it. They just have to, to survive!
      Best example is Porsche – hell they sell more Cayennes, Macans and Panameras in 1year than 911ers in 10 – that is bad! But if they wouldnt make those cars, they wouldnt exist anymore.
      BMW is stil leading the industry in so many areas, so there is no reason to worry. Ofcourse mass market cars, getting less progressive – or how do u want to satisfy customers WORLDWIDE?

  5. Malcolm dennett says:

    Try putting spear wheels in the boot I won’t buy one till they do it’s all well and good having a tube of gunk or whatever but you shread a tyre on a road a any time and that’s you missed a meeting or late for work it’s just a way of saving fuel supposing your a lady middle of the night and pop tyre goes

  6. ZeroCold says:

    Stop putting an “M” on every car and SUV. It confuses and deludes the M identity. Cut the weight and increase the handling and feel on the M3/M4 (people mention confusing and this is a good example of the M3 is now the M4). The M2 is a great start, but the car is hard to find. I have one on order.

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