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BMW delays U.S. launch of 2011 X3

BMW has revealed it will delay the United States launch of its next-generation X3 SUV. The all-new X3 was expected to hit the market in late 2010 as a 2011 model, but the revised SUV won't surface in BMW showrooms until early 2011.

A launch delay of the 2011 X3 has been rumored for several weeks now, with BMW North America president Jim O'Donnell confirming those reports on Monday. O'Donnell revealed to AutoWeek that the delay is linked to a new custom ordering system BMW is launching with the X3.

Under the new ordering system, most X3s will be custom tailored to a customer's specifications. BMW will still allow dealers to order vehicles for stock, but will limit options to the top 10 most popular. If the program proves successful, BMW will expand the program to the X5 and X6, with customer orders expects to account for more than 70 percent of all sales.

The delay will also allow BMW to launch the X3 with several engine options. The X3 was originally scheduled to launch with just one engine offering - a gasoline-powered inline-six - but the compact "˜ute could now launch with up to four engine packages. A diesel engine will be part of the mix, although BMW has yet to decide if the X3's oil burner will be a four or six-cylinder engine.

Despite the U.S. delay, the next X3 is still on schedule to hit the European market in late 2010. Production of the 2011 X3 will shift from Austria to Spartanburg, South Carolina.