BMW will not rush into launching its 1 Series saloon outside of China, despite the sales success of the rival Audi A3 saloon and recent confirmation from Mercedes-Benz that it will add a saloon model to its A-Class line-up in 2018.
A BMW source told Autocar that reports stating the firm had already drawn up plans to sell the four-door 1 Series in key global markets, including the UK, were wide of the mark. The source said the sole focus for the new saloon is the Chinese market, where the front-wheel-drive 1 Series saloon is produced in a joint venture with Brilliance.
Small cars with saloon body styles remain popular in China, in contrast to most European markets where hatchbacks are preferred.
“There are no immediate plans to sell the 1 Series saloon outside of China. The initial signs there are quite positive,” said the source.
BMW has confirmed that a feasibility study assessing the merit of selling the 1 Series saloon globally is underway. However, that is said to revolve around the next generation four-door due in 2021, rather than the model on sale in China.
One of the concerns for BMW in mapping out a global sales strategy for the 1 Series saloon is the impact it could have on sales of its linchpin model, the 3 Series saloon. The latter has better profit margins than the smaller car.
“We don’t want to get into a situation like that at Audi, where the smaller model has conquest sales from the larger model,” Autocar’s source said, hinting that although the A3 saloon has been a success, it has also stolen sales from the A4 saloon.
BMW is planning to switch the next 1 Series hatchback from its current rear-wheeldrive architecture to a front-wheel drive platform, upon which cars are cheaper to produce. After that model has arrived in 2019, BMW could begin offering the mechanically identical 1 Series saloon in global markets.
Another scenario has BMW twinning a new four-door GranCoupé model with the next-generation 2-series Coupé to create a rear-wheeldrive rival to the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-class saloons.