Illustration © Mark Stehrenberger

BMW's Luxury Pickup Truck

BMW is in the midst of a self-revolution that will likely impact American pickup truck buyers - at least on the luxury end of the market.

Earlier this year BMW introduced the X5, its first foray into the American truck market. BMW considers the X5 a key product for North America and while it may look like an SUV, BMW prefers their own Teutonic nomenclature calling the X5 a sports-activity vehicle. Whatever you call it, the X5 has been a raging success for BMW selling out almost the entire first year of production well in advance of its arrival at dealerships and scoring very high in initial customer satisfaction surveys.

Contrary to the success of the X5, BMW is facing the recent and embarrassing loss of its Rover Brand - as in the Range Rover line of SUVs and the little known Rover car brand only sold in Europe - because of its failure to meet financial goals since it acquired the struggling British automobile maker back in 1994.

The BMW brand, by itself, is still very profitable but in these days of industry consolidation, like the DaimlerChrysler merger, BMW has to fight tooth and nail to maintain and grow its market share. To do this BMW is seeking to increase its total car and truck output from 751,272 units, sold last year, to over 1,000,000 automobiles in the coming years. How will this increase occur? Through the introduction of new models and classes of vehicle.

As a very possible new addition to its lineup, BMW is seriously considering a luxury pickup truck that would follow on the sales success of the X5.

Sources reveal that BMW is already collaborating on the design of this new pickup between its home studios in Munich, Germany and, more importantly, at its Designworks/USA subsidiary, an industrial design firm located in Newbury Park, California. Designworks/USA was very influential in the design of the X5 and latest generation 3-Series car and would be best equipped to tackle a pickup truck. The truck would be produced at the Spartanburg Plant in South Carolina which can be rapidly expanded to handle new model lines.

Two variants of pickup truck would be produced - the 'traditional' extended cab version, as pictured above, and a four door, short bed version similar in concept to the Explorer Sport Trac. Both trucks would arrive with standard full-time, all-wheel drive with traction control and a choice of a 3.0L (225 hp I6) or 4.4L (282 hp V8) engine.

In addition to once again entering a new automotive segment and the expected increase in total unit sales resulting from a pickup truck in the family portfolio, BMW would also realize something the American manufacturers have known for a long time. Pickup trucks are among the most profitable vehicles to manufacture averaging over $7000 profit per truck on some of the full size models. Profit is expected to be even higher per vehicle on the luxury side of the pickup truck market segment - probably touching or exceeding $10,000 per truck.

BMW has the chance to move into the luxury pickup truck market while it's still in its infancy. The Lincoln Blackwood won't arrive until this fall at the earliest and Cadillac isn't expected to compete until early next year with its Avalanche derivative. Mercedes is still debating whether they will offer their own entry but is not believed to be as far along in the design process as BMW.