Don’t Expect a BMW 9 Series to Arrive Anytime Soon
Bimmer’s not making it because there’s no business case to be madeby Kirby, on
BMW has no plans to expand the top of its lineup. That doesn’t bode well for those who are dreaming of one day seeing a 9 Series sit a true flagship model. It might be time to wake up because that dream isn’t going to happen. BMW has confirmed that, even though it finds the appeal in a potential 9 Series, it’s not going to happen, in part because the automaker already has a model that competes in all the top-tier segments it wants to be involved in. More importantly, a business plan for the 9 Series just doesn’t make sense given that volume for models in the super luxury sedan segment — that’s the most likely spot for the 9 Series — are already low enough as it is.
Why Won’t BMW Make a 9 Series Sedan?
It sounds great on paper, right? A BMW 9 Series would be the perfect luxury sedan for BMW. If developed properly, it could turn into Bimmer’s first real competitor in a segment occupied only by the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and probably most directly, Mercedes-Maybach. Unfortunately, that idea seems to be at the root of BMW’s decision to pass on the 9 Series. I have to say; it’s a smart decision. BMW doesn’t need a 9 Series because the top-tier of its model lineup already boasts the 7 Series and the 8 Series. You can even throw the X7 in that mix, at least if you’re including a range-topping SUV. Those three models and the segments they occupy — luxury saloon, halo performance car, and SUV — already checks off the segments that BMW wants to be in.
If it did develop the 9 Series, where would BMW find a place for it? The short answer would be the super luxury sedan segment, but is BMW really prepared to hit that market and compete against Rolls-Royce, a company that it actually owns? It wouldn’t make a lot of sense unless BMW wants to have a little in-house competition going on.
Granted, developing a 9 Series wouldn’t be that hard because it could just use the same platform that underpins the Rolls-Royce Phantom, but, again, there’s the threat of undermining Rolls-Royce by doing that.
Bimmer’s R&D boss, Klaus Fröhlich, made it known that BMW isn’t keen on developing a 9 Series. “In this segment, you need three cars – an X car, a saloon, and an emotional sporty car – and we have them: the X7, 7 Series and 8 Series. Some competitors are already reducing the number of cars in this segment because volumes are so low.”
His comments about low volume is another critical reminder that just because the allure is there to see a super luxury sedan like the BMW 9 Series, it doesn’t mean that allure will translate to a successful business model.
Granted, Fröhlich’s comments to Autocar run counter to what BMW design director Adrian van Hooydonk said in August 2018 that BMW wasn’t going to stop with the 8 Series in its family of luxury models.
Van Hooydonk added that Bimmer was already thinking about new vehicles it plans to build as far out as 2030.
The extended timetable opens the door for the 9 Series a bit, but even then, it’s hard to imagine Bimmer developing a 9 Series in the next few years. Besides, you can interpret van Hooydon’s comments in different ways. Perhaps his comments pertain to more variety from the 8 Series. It wouldn’t be that far of a stretch to think in those terms, especially with the nostalgia surrounding the 8 Series nameplate.
That’s the difference between building up the 8 Series nameplate and developing a 9 Series. The former has a long and rich history with BMW enthusiasts. It’s easier to take advantage of that nostalgia and build around it as opposed to throwing an all-new luxury model with zero history into the fire.
I get the appeal of a 9 Series from the perspective of those who are interested in seeing it come to life. It’s new, and it could occupy a segment that BMW has yet to be a part of. Building a fan base in that segment could go a long way towards establishing a Bimmer as a luxury brand that can compete with the Bentleys and Mercedes-Maybachs of the world. All of that sounds great, but when you factor in the business aspect and the investments BMW has to make irrespective of its resources with Rolls-Royce, that picture starts to become a little fuzzier.
The curious cat in me wants to see the 9 Series just because I want to see what BMW can do with it. Maybe that ends up happening in 2030.
I wouldn’t be opposed to that. But for now, I think BMW is better off building up the 8 Series and taking full advantage of that nameplate’s potential in the market. What’s the point of bringing it back if the 9 Series ends up eating its lunch?
Read our full review on the 2019 BMW 8 Series.
Read our full speculative review on the 2020 BMW 9 Series.