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BMW purrs as strong demand for SUVs drives record 3Q

Inside The BMW Driving Center Ahead Of GDP FiguresInside The BMW Driving Center Ahead Of GDP Figures
The Spartanburg, South Carolina-built X5 has had a strong year.Photograph by Seongjoon Cho — Bloomberg via Getty Images

BMW AG (BMW) rounded off a strong quarter for Germany’s luxury carmakers, as demand for its X4 and X5 SUVs helped propel it to a record quarter for sales and operating profit.

The Munich-based company said revenue rose 4.5% on the year to €19.60 billion ($24.51 billion) while earnings before interest and taxes rose 17% to €2.26 billion, beating consensus forecasts by nearly 10%.

However, sales of the core BMW brand lagged both Mercedes-Benz and Audi, its two main rivals, growing by only 6.9%. The company’s shares fell 1.5% in early trading in Frankfurt as a result.

BMW, which also makes the Mini and the luxury Rolls Royce brands, said the business environment is “increasingly challenging”, but stuck to its original (if vague) forecast of a “significant” increase in profits for the full year, helped by a rebound in its home market of Europe after years of decline.

Revenue in Europe over the first nine months was up 3.4%, but growth was stronger in the U.S., where it rose 5.2%, and in China, where it was up 18% despite widespread reports of an economic slowdown.

Over the first nine months of the year, sales of the X5 SUV, made at BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, jumped 34% on the year to 105,000, while the new X4 sold some 7,200 since its summer launch.

The company’s results were also helped at the margins by a return to profit at the motorcycles division.

The company also said sales of its i3 electric vehicle have now passed 10,000, having been launched in the U.S. and Japan in the second quarter. Sales of its higher-performance i8 vehicle, launched in June, had reached 341 by the end of the period.