SEC charges BMW for misleading investors on US auto sales

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has pressed charges against German automaker BMW AG, along with its domestic subsidiaries BMW of North America (BMW NA) and BMW US Capital, for misleading investors on US auto sales numbers.

“BMW inflated its reported retail sales in the U.S., which helped BMW close the gap between its actual retail sales volume and internal targets and publicly maintain a leading retail sales position relative to other premium automotive companies,” the SEC press release reporting the charges detailed.

The agency’s investigation found that BWM NA maintained an internal “bank” of unreported retail vehicle sales to use as needed for meeting monthly sales targets irregardless of the actual sale date. Also, BMW NA was found to have paid dealers to designate vehicles as “demos” or “loaners” in order to inflate sales numbers. These practices amounted to material misstatements and omissions to investors.

BMW i4 electric concept. (Credit: BMW)

“Through its repeated disclosure failures, BMW misled investors about its U.S. retail sales performance and customer demand for BMW vehicles in the U.S. market while raising capital in the U.S.,” explained Stephanie Avakian, Director of the SEC Division of Enforcement.

Approximately $18 billion dollars in bond offerings were gained by the companies during a 2015-2019 timeframe of repeated disclosure failures. The SEC’s order found that BMW and its subsidiaries violated antifraud provisions of Sections 17(a)(2) and (3) of the Securities Act of 1933. All parties agreed to a joint penalty of $18 million and to cease and desist from future violations without admitting or denying the SEC findings.

BMW previously reported 2.5 million vehicle sales across its BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce brands in 2019, a 1.2% increase from 2018. The German automaker has also taken cues from Tesla in offering subscription services for features already present in their vehicles such as automatic high beams and heated seats. However, following the Elon Musk-led company into the realm of electric vehicles has been a bit more of a point of resistance despite the growing popularity of the cars and government support following suit.

In an interview this past January, BMW’s head of Research and Development Klaus Froehlich stated that he believes the various markets of the world simply do not have a real need for electric cars. “On the diesel side, production of the 1.5-liter, three-cylinder entry engine will end and the 400-hp, six-cylinder won’t be replaced because it is too expensive and too complicated to build with its four turbos,” he said in an interview with Automotive News. “However, our four- and six-cylinder diesels will remain for at least another 20 years and our gasoline units for at least 30 years.”

SEC charges BMW for misleading investors on US auto sales
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