Posted by Erik Johnson, Automobile Magazine
The accents were thick, the presentation was business-like, and the information was copious. It was, in other words, a typical BMW press conference.
BMW traditionally uses Detroit as the platform from which to announce the previous year's sales figures, and the proceedings started with BMW board member Dr. Michael Ganal - filling in for the flu-ridden CEO, Norbert Reithofer - reporting a 3.5 percent jump in total retail sales to 1.37 million vehicles, 1.19 million of which wore BMW roundels. (For the record, Rolls-Royce put its gold-plated nose to the grindstone and chipped in with a record 804 Phantoms. Minis accounted for the rest.)
Diesel vehicles have been big news at this year's show, and the BMW event continued the trend. While the Bavarians didn't have any oil burners on the show stand, they did announce that they would be offering diesel engines in the U.S. as soon as next year, and that the powerplants would comply with the emissions regulations of all fifty states.
While all of that was certainly fascinating, the most important announcement was that of the 3-series convertible. The next-to-last version of the latest 3-series to be revealed - the wicked, V-8-powered M3 should drop this fall - the convertible now sports a retractable hard top for the first time. Made from steel, the lid will open or close in about twenty seconds. It goes on sale in March.