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Six Quick Questions - Dr Franz Sauter, BMW

1. What is the state of the Australia luxury-car market at the moment?

"It is stable on a high level, but it's a competitive market. "We expect to be traveling on the same level as last year on a full- year basis, and we are confident we can grow the BMW Group business.

2. How does BMW rate globally?

"On a worldwide scale, if you take away South Africa where there a very special regulations and BMW is an assembler, we have the highest market share in the world.

"We have 29.2 per cent of the luxury sector in Australia, and in Germany the figure is 27.4 per cent and the worldwide number is 19.9 per cent."

3. Why is BMW doing so well in Australia?

"Australians like our products and we have a very strong brand here. "We have other things which are particularly appealing to potential owners, like guaranteed future values for our cars. We are the only manufacturer to do that across the range. It shows the confidence we have because we know the situation with BMW residuall values.

"Others will follow us, because they do, but we are the first. That is especially appealing to luxury users, as they have the option to hand the car back at the end of their lease term.

"This program is fitted to the Australian market, but we have other things and there is also a good demand here for the BMW four-wheel drives with the X5 and X3."

4. How has BMW been tracking in Australia over recent years?

"Since 1999 we have grown by 79 per cent and, although we usually don't talk about our competitors, that is more than anyone else and gives us a lead of 20 per cent over the same time last year. "That includes the 4x4s but not the commercial vehicles sold by one of our competitors. It's passenger cars and four-wheel drives.

"If you look at other manufacturers there is one other brand which is doing well but coming from a low base, yet we outsold them 3:1 in 1999 and now we outsold them 3.3:1 in 2005."

5. Looking forward, what can we expect in 2006 and 2007?

"We are now expanding our range on the diesel front, and we will have the 120d and 320d in the second quarter of this year. There will also be the 323i Touring in the second quarter, and later in the year a new 3 Series coupe. Also the 323i sedan.

"We have now the revised Z4 including the M Roadster, and of course we have the Z4 coupe coming in the secnd half of the year and the M coupe version which will be very exciting.

"2007 is still quite a way down the track, so we will have a few renewals.

"In the 1 Series we are far away from having exploited the market potential and we will have a few very nice things that will fit perfectly in Australia. But that will be 2007.

"Also, a little bit down the track we will have . . . a sporty version of the X5. It is in the design stage and, from what we have seen, it will be a stunning success."

6. You are also responsible for Mini as part of the BMW Group. How far away is the replacement car?

"The new model Mini will be in the market in Australia next year. "In that life cycle it will also have several more variants that will also come to Australia and they will help to substantially grow Mini in the market. It was originally a one-model vehicle but will grow to a full product family."

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