It has already been more than three years since BMW began its design revolution, something that has created lengthy discussions among fans and customers around the world. It all started in June 2020, when the German manufacturer presented the second generation of the 4 Series with a new, larger front grille, which initially received more negative than positive comments.
This mid-size car came months after the presentation of the BMW Concept 4 at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. According to the company, the production version, known as the G22, featured more than 80 per cent of the concept's design cues, including, of course, the massive kidney-shaped grille.
From the discussions that could be seen online, it seemed that BMW 's latest would be a flop. But this was not the case.
The issue can best be understood by analysing the car's sales figures worldwide. Last year BMW sold some 146,200 units of the new generation in all markets.
The unit total, which includes the coupé, cabriolet, 4-door Gran Coupe and electric i4, saw an 87 per cent increase over the full-year results for 2021. In fact, the second generation of the 4 Series was the company's sixth best-selling product.
BMW 4 Series versus rivals global sales 2022 - graphic
The criticism it has received has not stopped the Munich-based manufacturer from presenting even more 'polarising' models in terms of design. November 2020 saw the reveal of the BMW iX SUV and its strange proportions. If the big 4 Series grille had shaken up online forums, BMW's first all-electric SUV generated chaos.
The iX was nothing like what the brand had presented up to that point. It was not just a question of the size of the grille, but of the entire vehicle, which was also the opposite of the conservative shapes of its rivals: the Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQC.
BMW versus Mercedes global sales chart - graphic
The result? The iX was the world's best-selling electric large SUV last year, beating the e-tron (now called the Q8 e-tron) and entering the world's top 10 best-selling classic large SUVs.
Destroyers: new 7 Series and XM
The debate over the bold and unique shapes of the latest BMWs continued when the brand's designers dared to change the brand's status-quo. Until then, in fact, the revolution only concerned new or low-selling models.
Things changed radically when the seventh generation of the 7 Series was presented to the world in April 2022. The flagship was supposed to be an untouchable product, given the conservative style of customers in this exclusive segment.
However, in this respect BMW proposed a totally different design and positioning in order to stand out from the crowd and regain share over the popular Mercedes S-Class. The result so far, one year after its introduction, has not been as good as in the previous two cases. The 7 still lags behind the S-Class in terms of sales in Europe, the US and China.
BMW versus rivals sales results - graphic
By September, the brand had sold 3,700 units of the flagship in Europe, compared to almost 10,300 units for the S-Class. In the US, the latter sold 1.5 million units, or 1.9 units for every 1 new 7 Series sold, while in China the ratio was 1 BMW for 3.4 Mercedes. The same applies to the i7 and EQS.
The BMW XM, on the other hand, arrived in September 2022, bringing with it much criticism due to its unusual design and massive size. After seven months of availability, it sold 4,800 units globally, making it the fifth best-selling M model in Europe and the US. In the former, the XM also significantly outsold the Lamborghini Urus at the end of September, with 2,237 units compared to 1,481 for the Italian super SUV.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.