BMW Malta office given added responsibility for Cypriot market
BMW Group Malta's newly-app-ointed managing director Konrad Baumgartner has also been named regional director for Cyprus following the car-maker's decision earlier this year to bundle the responsibility for both the European's right-hand drive markets.
Mr Baumgartner was appointed to the Portomaso-based dual post in January, succeeding Lennard Pal.
"Our office here in Malta has gained additional importance," he told The Times Business this week. "Synergies between the two markets will be drawn on and economies of scale will further enhance our competitiveness. The new set-up obviously requires more travelling, and is even increasing the responsibility and workload of the team and myself."
BMW maintained segment leadership in Malta last year with a premium segment share of 29 per cent and around 1.5 per cent market share. Mr Baumgartner believes the challenges locally are to define the right product, price and marketing strategy for 2010 on one hand, and to optimise - with local partner Muscats Motors - efficient and effective programmes in all areas on the other.
"Our main aim," he emphasised, "is to keep our existing customers loyal and to win new customers in an almost saturated market to strengthen our number one position in Malta this year."
Worldwide, the group has also positioned itself firmly in the previously owned market. Its BMW Premium Selection and Mini Next propositions encompass high standard approved and certified used car programmes. Cars on offer have to pass a sophisticated 72-point check list and have to fulfil specific criteria to be sold as BMW Premium Selection or as MINI Next. "Our customers have peace of mind in terms of the verified history of the car, like replacement of safety parts, severe damages, and engine replacements, the actual mileage, and the technical and optical premium condition of our cars with an additional used car warranty of 24 months," Mr Baumgartner explained.
"All our new cars are sold with a five-year Service Inclusive Program in Malta. This special service contract stays with the car even after it is sold, which gives BMW Premium Selection and MINI Next approved used car buyers an additional advantage. We at BMW believe that peace of mind, along with competitive prices, definitely determine the better alternative."
Asked about BMW's outlook for 2010 in Malta and Cyrus, particularly with a potential crisis looming in the eurozone, Mr Baumgartner said the group was "cautiously optimistic".
"We will definitely have to face further challenges," he admitted. "However we are confident that with our ongoing model offensive, BMW's Efficient Dynamics Strategy, and renewed engine generation with more power and less emissions, we will return to a growth path this year, both worldwide, and in Malta and Cyprus of course.
"Especially for Malta, where the special registration tax for cars is mainly based on CO2 emissions: The upcoming launch of the 320d Lim. Efficient Dynamic Edition, with just 109 g CO2 emissions per km and outstanding 163 HP, will be a very interesting offer for all BMW enthusiasts. For all our Mini prospects, we recently introduced the Mini First with an attractive entry price level of €19,999."
BMW has extended its model range significantly in recent years. The 1 Series family - with all its derivatives like three- and five-door, coupe and convertible - is now a considerable part of the premium segment.
The sales figures are remarkable: Mr Baumgartner said 225,443 cars belonging to the 1 Series family were sold last year, more than BMW's direct competitors managed to sell. That figure reflects 21 per cent of the total BMW sales volume last year.
"BMW has done very well with the 1 Series models, both locally and worldwide. It is one of our top selling models, and we wish to keep it this way," the managing director pointed out.
He added that the recently launched X1 crossover had been very positively received with sales figures exceeding BMW's own expectations.
The launch of additional engine variations like the 1.8i sDrive, which goes into production in March, aimed to further widen BMW's potential target group with its attractive entry price level and the availability of automatic transmission.
Besides, all the new engine variations are based on the very latest technology.
The compacts and cross-over versions are aimed at completely different target groups than the larger models, enabling BMW to be a focus in customer segments it had never reached before. The 1 Series, the entry model range of the entire BMW product portfolio, proved a significant conquest rate from other brands.
At the other end of the spectrum, BMW's flagship 7 Series has clinched major achievements of its own. It was officially launched at the end of 2008 at the height of the global downturn but despite the financial and economic crises, the model sold "extremely well" over the following 12 months: 52,680 units were delivered to customers worldwide in 2009, an increase of 36 per cent over 2008.
BMW believes the introduction of xDrive, new engine variations with latest technology, and the upcoming launch of the 7 Series Active Hybrid will further strengthen its market position worldwide.
Mr Baumgartner was understandably reticent about BMW's plans for the international shows this year, but was able to talk about the forthcoming and highly anticipated launch of the sixth-generation 5 Series sedan.
"The model maintains, and further enhances, our leadership for best efficiency in this segment. I was in Lisbon last week where I had the chance to drive it on the Estoril racetrack in Lisbon," he said.
"With this unique balance of sporty and elegant design, performance and efficiency - best-in-class consumption - driving experience and driver orientation, the new 5 Series sedan fits the demanding lifestyle of our customers perfectly.
"Options like the new eight-speed automatic transmission, Dynamic Driving Control, Integral Active Steering and the Park Assistant demonstrate perfectly the technical expertise of our engineers to meet the demands of our customers the best way possible. I was positively impressed!"
In the second half of the year, BMW will unveil another highlight within the product range, the new X3 with an "unbeatable design and state of the art product substance".
The group also has exciting new products for its customers in the Mini portfolio in the latter six months of 2010 when a completely new variation to the family will make its debut. The Mini Countryman will be the first Mini to be all-wheel-drive, feature four doors and four full-size seats, and measure around four metres in length.
"I am convinced the new Mini Countryman will be very well accepted by our customers worldwide, and I am also quite sure that this new concept will also be very well received by all Mini enthusiasts in Malta and Cyprus," Mr Baumgartner said.