• Apr 16th 2010 at 4:00PM
  • 17
2011 BMW 5 Series – Click above for high-res image gallery

Base model 5-Series? $44,500. Top-line 5-er? $59,700. Independence? Priceless.

Those were the key messages from a luncheon with BMW's U.S. marketing and product planning chief Jack Pitney, who snuck into Motown to discuss, among other things, the upcoming American launch of one of the maker's most important product lines.

The all-new 2011 528i, 535i and 550i models have gone through a significant transformation, and now share much of their underlying platform with the latest-generation BMW 7 Series. But they also share a lower price tag with other high-line sedans, something that reflects what Pitney admitted is a "highly-competitive" U.S. luxury market. The 528i will officially hit American showrooms, on June 19, carrying a sticker that's $1,400 under that of the outgoing model.

Notably, all three models will offer the option of all-wheel drive, as well as a no-charge pick of either an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, the latter likely only to account for about five percent of overall sales, but still critical, stressed Pitney, to reinforcing the brand's "Ultimate Driving Machine" image.

And yes, he stressed, while BMW has been playing with a second advertising tagline, "The Joy of Driving," that long-lived "Ultimate" slogan isn't going away. "That," he insisted, "would never, ever occur."

Photos by Chris Paukert / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Though the ever-popular 3 Series is BMW's big seller here, the 5-er remains a critical part of the lineup; a bit surprisingly, the outgoing model still accounted for 20 percent of the brand's overall U.S. sales in 2009.

But for those who remember the days when buying a BMW meant choosing between 3-, 5- and 7-, the maker is continuing to expand its line-up. Soon after the launch of the new 5 Series, it will bring in a redesigned X3 – while shifting the global production site to BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina assembly line – as well as the new X1. The 6 Series will also get a remake next year.

A little further out are the planned MegaCity electric vehicles, an all-new line-up of downsized battery cars aimed at the worl'd growing urban markets. While Pitney declined to give specific details, he did note the new models "definitely will have the Roundel up front, so they will be BMW (branded) vehicles, but we will create a separate sub-brand for them."

BMW, noted Pitney, was just barely able to maintain its lead in the global sales sweepstakes, during the first quarter of 2010, reflecting the increasing aggressiveness of rival Audi. (The Volkswagen subsidiary did nose past Mercedes-Benz). BMW's North American marketing czar said he is confident his brand can maintain its lead here, but admitted "There is a huge, healthy does of paranoia that runs inside BMW."

We don't think a marriage is a good way to run a global car company.
During a long luncheon, Pitney took several jibes at arch-rival Mercedes' parent, Daimler AG, which has just entered a surprise alliance with the Euro-Japanese Renault-Nissan partnership. That move is designed to reduce product and component development costs, but Pitney suggested it could blur the distinctions between the various partners.

"Marriages require compromises," he said, adding that, "We don't think a marriage is a good way to run a global car company. We want to lay out our own path."

Of course, BMW has some personal knowledge of how things can go wrong. Its own acquisition of the Rover Group failed catastrophically, some years back, though it was able to salvage the Mini brand before Rover's eventual failure.

Paul A. Eisenstein is Publisher of TheDetroitBureau.com, and a 30-year veteran of the automotive beat. His editorials bring his unique perspective and deep understanding of the auto world to Autoblog readers on a regular basis.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I miss Chris Bangle.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Canadian prices will be 25 percent more...

      I still don’t understand the concept of a new 5-series for $44k! In Canada, you get a used 08 528i for this price, and apparently BMW Canada has the exclusive right to Canadianize US import cars and charges $6k for this “service”.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't understand the title, nor the first line. Kinda contradicts the "The 528i will officially hit American showrooms, on June 19, carrying a sticker that's $1,400 under that of the outgoing model." Don't understand why the "high" price is even mentioned.. like Audis are not overpriced (esp the A4 2.0T). I forgot, this is an Audi blog.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Used BMWs are much cheaper for a reason...they're timebombs waiting to happen that will suck your bank account if something goes wrong out of warranty.

      Ditto Mercedes...massive depreciation b/c parts and service is insane!

      My buddies 500SL...$300.00 to change the battery which is req'd b/c of a special electronics tool that must be used to reset the ECU.

      Dang krauts!
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's pretty true.

        At least the engines/transmissions last forever though. That's the only reason why i keep my bimmer :p

        A used German car is a good deal if you do the work yourself.. there is usually some way around getting fleeced if so... otherwise ditch it.. ain't no Honda.. ( but i'd be less scared of buying one than some American cars )
      • 5 Years Ago
      I find this car to be a bit bland
      • 5 Years Ago
      What did high take?
      • 5 Years Ago
      How about "The Joy Of Driving The Ultimate Driving Machine"
      • 5 Years Ago
      I bet like $2000 of that is the CAFE fine that they tack on to their cars.

      Whatever happened to BMW's willingness to sell a cheapy model? ie a 525/325/318..
      They've kinda went the way of Apple & do this 'all or nothing' thing now. Kinda sucks.

      Oh well, like i always say.. i'll pick one up used in 5 years at 1/4th of the price :p
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hurry up and please come out with the new 3 series F30 codename. I wanna get a new car already, oh and reduce its weight by like 700 please! (that won't happen)
      • 5 Years Ago
      "six-speed manual, the latter likely only to account for about five percent of overall sales, but still critical, stressed Pitney, to reinforcing the brand's "Ultimate Driving Machine" image."

        • 5 Years Ago
        Kudos to BMW, for not sacrificing their reputation to the bean counters.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I used to own a 1995 525i that I got used a few years after. It had the original window price sheet in the glove compartment. $44,000. It had the winter option pack. Price hasn't changed much it seems.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Pretty sad isn't it?

        $44,000 in 1995 is worth $62,800 in today's dollar, which is why German luxury cars were relatively rare back in the 1990s. I remember a decently equipment MB E300 in early 90s cost over $50,000, which in today's money is $75,000. Yet, a brand new E350 is $48,600 today.

        No wonder everybody is driving BMW and MB these days. Their real prices declined 40% over the past 15 years.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No price TOO high.

      At any rate, love the new slogan:

      The Joy of Driving.

      Akin to..

      The Joy of Cooking
      The Joy of Sex
      The Joy of Posting on Car-related Websites

      Overpriced cars, but still selling well.

      What recession?
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