Monday, July 20, 2009

A hit GT could kill BMW's 5-series wagon

BMW 5 Series GT

The new 5-series Gran Turismo crossover, shown, could end U.S. sales of BMW's 5-series station wagon. Only 395 wagons have been sold this year.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- If BMW's new 5-series Gran Turismo proves to be a hit, the company may kill its slow-moving 5-series station wagon in the United States.

The 5-series GT, a coupelike four-door crossover, will debut in the fourth quarter. The wagon's future will be decided in about a year, when a redesigned 5 series debuts, said Martin Birkmann, manager of product and price planning for BMW of North America.

BMW forecasts annual sales of 4,000 to 8,000 units for the 5-series GT. The company won't disclose pricing but says the vehicle will be positioned between the flagship 7 series and the 5-series sedan.

The 5 series starts at $46,625 for the 528i. The 7 series starts at $81,125 for the 750i. The prices include shipping.

"There is plenty of room for a vehicle between those two cars," Birkmann said at a press event here.

Birkmann said BMW expects the GT to represent 10 to 20 percent of 5-series sales in the United States. Sales of the 5 series have been averaging about 40,000 units a year, peaking at 56,756 in 2006.

Sales of the station wagon never have taken off in the United States, where Birkmann said the vehicle has a stodgy image not associated with luxury cars.

Sales of the wagon topped out at 2,351 in 2005; only 395 were sold through the first six months of 2009.

BMW has not released full specifications for the 5-series GT, which will debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September.

At about 200 inches, the GT is as long as the short-wheelbase 7 series. It is five inches lower than an X5 crossover and six inches shorter than the X6 crossover.

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