Sales success is relative. Some unimpressive sales figures go unremembered and stay that way. BMW sold fewer 728s per year than Citroen did the XM or Peugeot the 604, both viewed as laugh-until-you-faint failures.
Do I sound bitter? I suppose so. Injustice always rankles. The E23 (write it down, learn it, use it: “e-twenty three”) can be defended by its defenders though. The car represented a new market for BMW so anything was better than nothing. The next model sold a bit better (and not worse). The XM’s sales fitted into a downpointing jagged line, a nose-dive to extinction. Towards the end the production line at Rennes was a carpark. The 605’s sales held steady at or near irrelevance, so they judge it.
The twenty-three’s successor sold a bit better: thirty thousand units more sold over an eight-year period. And the E38 (1994-2001) achieved another twenty thousand in its eight-years. So, the 7’s sales grew a bit even as the model-cycle shortened by 24 months.
Doesn’t that make you think? BMW kept on hammering at this problem: the twenty-three and its successors all achieved sales figures in the same order of magnitude over similar periods of time. They didn’t give up. Isn’t it interesting that the 7-series sale figures which are essentially steady and respectable are judged as disastrous for the 604, 605 and XM (and others in that class). Peugeot’s 605 managed 252 185 units in a decade, not far off the e-23 and friends. Failure.
We have to look at the pattern of sales too, not just the final tally. The first three 7s sold about the same number every year. Even as BMW pulled the plug on each model cycle, there came another ten thousand customers in the final six months, ready to write a cheque for a just-about-obsolete car.
I have always been fascinated by that phenomenon. Why didn’t these people hang on another six months? The reason they do buy a run-out model is because the car is competitive right until the end. Even if the next car is better, the outgoing car is more than good enough. And further, the customers of the outgoing car know there is a buyer for their vehicle 36 months down the line.
As it’s a Sunday I am not going to pursue the highest level of diligence. Relying on my memory, I can say the e-twentythree didn’t fare that well critically in its first years, with Car in particular condemning its wayward handling. Prodigious thirst? The straight-six had a four-barrel Solex carburettor and I suspect keeping it on song was harder than tuning the Valére organ**.
One conclusion here is that while BMW could support a model that sold in the order of 300,000 units a years, others couldn’t.
A little word about the styling: it is credited to Manfred Rennen.
(The slide show makes clear the difference between a smart ‘phone camera and a proper digital camera. The image looks nice on the iPhone display. When the image appears here is gains a faintly misty, blurry dull look. If the Canon Sureshot A590 might seems archaic, the images are better. I imagine that compressing a lens system to the thickness of an iPhone has a negative effect based in the laws of physics. )
** You won’t find references like that at other automotive websites. Remind me again, how much do we charge for this service?