BMW unveiled a concept of its revived 8 series that will become a new flagship coupe and help it try to supplant German rival Mercedes-Benz for leadership in luxury vehicle sales worldwide.
“The number 8 has always represented the pinnacle of sports performance and exclusivity at BMW,” CEO Harald Krueger said in a statement Thursday. The 8 series will demonstrate that “razor-sharp dynamics and modern luxury can go hand-in-hand,” he said.
The production version of the 8-series coupe will go on sale next year in Europe and the U.S. A convertible version is expected to follow in 2019. The cars will compete directly with the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupe and cabrio.
Krueger said the 8 series will “raise the benchmark for coupes in the segment,” helping BMW to “strengthen its claim to leadership in the luxury class.”
The BMW brand's global sales rose 5.2 percent to 2 million light vehicles last year, less than half the 11 percent rise in volume at the Mercedes-Benz brand, which eased past its rival by selling 2.08 million vehicles worldwide.
BMW’s design chief, Adrian van Hooydonk, called the 8 series coupe "a luxurious sports car which embodies both unadulterated dynamics and modern luxury like arguably no other. For me, it’s a slice of pure automotive fascination.”
The 8 series will lead BMW’s renewed focus on high-margin, top-end luxury light vehicles, rather than compact models. BMW is also expanding its SUV lineup with a new flagship, the X7.
“Our strategy will focus on the luxury segment, where there are margins to be earned," Krueger told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting this month.
BMW did not disclose pricing for the 8 series. The Mercedes S-class coupe starts at $123,675, including shipping, in the U.S., while the convertible models sell for base prices ranging from $132,325 up to $248,825 in the U.S., including shipping.
The 8 series is expected to replace the 6-series coupe and convertible. BMW stopped selling the 6-series coupe this year in the U.S. It continues to sell the 6-series Gran Coupe and the convertible for base prices starting at $82,395, including shipping.
At that price, the 6-series variants are not direct competitors to the S-class derivatives. The 6 series is positioned between the Mercedes E- and S-class coupe and convertible offerings.
The 8-series coupe concept appears sleeker and sportier than the 6-series coupe it replaces, with more muscular surfaces but with basic proportions that resemble the 850i launched in 1989.
BMW built about 30,000 units of the 8-series coupe from 1989 to 1999.
The 8 series will be based on BMW's 7-series flagship sedan. An M8 performance version is under discussion.
The original 8-series vehicles were powered by V-8 and V-12 gasoline engines. BMW did not release technical specifications for the 8-series coupe concept, but the top-end model is expected to be equipped with the 610-hp, 6.6-liter V-12 engine that debuted this year in the M760Li -- the top-end 7 series.