BMW wielded an unlikely tool to hold onto its crown in the U.S. luxury-car market last year: the loaner.
The German automaker narrowly outsold Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, and its success hinged partly on some deal-making in the showroom. Its strategy: Pay dealers to buy BMWs for their fleets of loaner vehicles, showing off the latest models to service customers and boosting sales. Other carmakers have used similar tactics. But BMW has been unusually assertive, according to people familiar with the matter -- so much so, in fact, that it might have lost No. 1 bragging rights to Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus without the strategy. more...
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