latest automotive news, best new and used cars, find a new car 2152b_2018-BMW-X3-610x407 The Third-generation BMW X3 Absolutely Must Be the Best-Selling Small Luxury Crossover in 2018, BMW CEO Says BMW   “We created that segment,” BMW CEO says of the sector in which the BMW X3 arrived before Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo.

“The No.1 approach and target I clearly have is, there shouldn’t be anyone besides us who is No.1,” Krueger told Automotive News Europe.

In the U.S., where Krueger’s goals (expectations? demands?) for the South Carolina-built BMW X3 are lofty, the X3 ranked a distant fifth in the category in 2016.

But Krueger ain’t kiddin’ around.

The last time the BMW X3 outsold all of its direct rivals in the United States was 2012. But while U.S. X3 volume jumped 26 percent since then — to record levels in 2016 — competitors climbed faster.

The Lexus NX, which led the compact crossover segment in the U.S. in 2016, didn’t even exist in 2012.

The Acura RDX, sales of which climbed to an all-time high of 52,361 units in 2016, jumped 77 percent since 2012.

The Audi Q5, sliding slightly in 2016 at the end of its eight-year first-gen tenure, still sold 73-percent more often in 2016 than in 2012.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, a successor to the GLK, reported a 63-percent jump between 2012, when the X3 last led, and 2016.latest automotive news, best new and used cars, find a new car 2152b_2018-BMW-X3-rear-610x407 The Third-generation BMW X3 Absolutely Must Be the Best-Selling Small Luxury Crossover in 2018, BMW CEO Says BMW   For the X3 to leapfrog the GLC, and the Q5, and the RDX, and the NX, demand won’t be the only issue. Indeed, demand might hardly be an issue at all. BMW has seen its sales tail off in the U.S. over much of the last year and a half, but consumers still are very desirous of BMW’s SAVs. BMW car sales in the first-half of 2017 were down 14 percent, but BMW’s five utility vehicles were up 14 percent.

No, it’s safe to presume the demand will be there. Capacity, on the other hand, has historically been a mountain to climb for BMW’s utility vehicles.

With the third-generation X3, BMW is adding plants in South Africa and China, enabling more of the X3s built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to remain in the United States.

Even before the third-generation 2018 BMW X3’s launch in the latter portion of this year, 2017 is already looking to be a bright one for the X3. Compared with last year’s record performance, U.S. sales are up 23 percent to 24,350 through the first half of 2017, and that’s with a vehicle in its seventh model year.

How can the X3, currently such an old design, achieve such lofty output?

Thank the strength of the category. Compact luxury crossover sales in the U.S. jumped 22 percent in 2016 after surging 39 percent in 2015 and 19 percent in 2014. Through 2017’s first six months, category-wide sales are up a further 11 percent.

Huge interest in the category serves to explain, in part, the BMW CEO’s grosse erwartungen. “The X3 is very crucial because that segment is still the biggest one in terms of growth,” Krueger says. The newest vehicle in one of the fastest-growing categories in a huge SUV market? The 2018 BMW X3 is certainly in with a shout.

BMW began selling the X3 in the U.S. in 2004. 382,000 have been sold in the 13 years since.

[Images: BMW]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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