By on November 22, 2012

For many of the brand’s faithful, a front-driver BMW is a revolting prospect. It’s the four-wheeled equivalent of tofu-based bacon or a cigarette without nicotine. But BMW is banking on small cars in a big way – their new front drive architecture, dubbed UKL, will underpin as many as 12 front-drive products from BMW and Mini. And frankly, not doing a front-drive range would be a display of poor judgement on the part of management.

Lest anyone accuse me of apostasy, let’s look at the facts. Mercedes-Benz did a front-drive platform and survived. Audi is making some of the most significant advancements in modern automobile production with the new A3 which uses – you guessed it – the front-drive MQB platform. Both of these auto makers have BMW squarely in the sights. They want to overtake BMW as the number one premium auto maker, and they can easily do it – unless BMW builds a front-drive car of their own.

Notice how the front-drivers from Mercedes and Audi are all compact hatchbacks while the serious stuff, the models we all know and love, use longitudinal layouts and rear or all-wheel drive? That’s not going to change any time soon at those two companies or BMW. All three of them are smart enough to know that their core vehicles need to retain this layout for a number of reasons.

But the post-recession era has seen a whole new segment of luxury vehicles pop up; the premium small car. Many are tempted to write off cars like the Mini, the Fiat 500 and the Opel Adam as limp-wristed compacts for self-concious urbanites who wouldn’t dare condescend to a mainstream economy car. In many parts of the world, it’s not just strivers who buy these cars, but financially secure (and even the truly wealthy) consumers who don’t want or need a larger car. Parking, vehicle taxes, fuel consumption, emissions and other factors can all be taken into account as well, but sales of these cars are on the rise and BMW wants a piece of the action. And it doesn’t look like it will be so terrible. European media have already driven powertrain mules of the new 3-cylinder engine set to be used in the UKL cars. How does a 221-horsepower turbocharged three-banger sound?

The only way to build any kind of car these days is maximize the economies of scale. The development of a new car costs billions, and the best way to amortize this is to do what Volkswagen did – build everything from the Polo to the next-generation Passat on one modular architecture. Ironically, Volkswagen took their cues from BMW, who had a “1.0” version of the modular platform in effect with the 3-Series and 5-Series.

For BMW to make the investment in an all-new architecture worthwhile, they’re going to have to spread UKL around as much as possible – that means a new 1-Series with sedan, coupe, convertible, hatchback and crossover variants (1-Series GT anyone?), as well as a new MINI and all the variants that entails. This is the kind of thing that makes “enthusiasts” (of the sort with very narrow definitions of what a car should be) roll their eyes, but for better or worse, this is the way things are done in the automotive world these days. And if BMW’s projections are correct, you better get used to it real fast – an interview with Automotive News has one BMW exec stating that UKL vehicles are expected to account for 40 percent of BMW Group’s global sales within a decade.

 

 

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58 Comments on “Why BMW Needs To Do Front-Drive Cars...”


  • avatar

    and the question for 500 dollars Alex is, What is the Mini?

    • 0 avatar
      -Cole-

      I bet you think the 7-series is the same as the Ghost.

      • 0 avatar

        Not at all. I have a 3-er and have driven minis from cooper to clubman. They are very nice cars-I always thought that BMW dealt with it well by making a small FWD car to the BMW standard, and by calling it something else to protect the BMW brand. In Europe, there are a lot of small BMWs we don’t see, and RWD is the unique selling point. FWD BMW in europe would not be a stretch. Here in the US, where we think all BMW are luxury (imagine every GM you saw was a Caddy), it’s a bigger deal. The enthusiasts would pillory them, although most BMW drivers in the US have no idea which side pushes, unless it has X drive, another option you see little of in Europe.

  • avatar

    Sounds like vindication for Saab. Get with the program BMW though. Transverse mounting is THE only way to go. Its more compact, affords better space usage, gets rid of PIA to make, power-wasting (like 8%) ring & pinions and the best, efficient, powertrains will make a superior product.

    Any need for powered rear axles can be accomplished with electric motors.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Most “real” Saab engines were not transverse mounted, but backward longitudinal with the transmission up against the radiator.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Exactly, the real Saab made cars with high level, unique engineering. They were front wheel drive, but with double wishbone front suspension and the reverse longitudinal engines to optimize handling and weight distribution.

        To the extent the FWD BMWs succeed they are vindication for the Cadillac Cimarron.

        “Many are tempted to write off cars like the Mini, the Fiat 500 and the Opel Adam as limp-wristed compacts for self-concious urbanites who wouldn’t dare condescend to a mainstream economy car. In many parts of the world, it’s not just strivers who buy these cars, but financially secure (and even the truly wealthy) consumers who don’t want or need a larger car.”

        The problem with this logic is that the financially secure people do not need to impress anyone by overpaying to have a BMW label applied to a FWD hatchback. They will buy a Prius or a Golf or Focus or, mostly likely, a small cute ute like a CR-V. The financially secure people will buy the RWD/longitudinal BMWs and Audis because of their engineering. But they will not pay extra to have a badge on a FWD compact.

        The people that are going to be overpaying to get a badge on a FWD compact, instead of just getting a mainstream FWD compact, are the “self-concious urbanites who wouldn’t dare condescend to a mainstream economy car.”

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I tend to agree with racer-esq, doing FWD just to compete with the low to mid-end players will simply dilute the brand. People who are “in to” FWD hatches and the like already have a litany of proven models/brands to choose from, snob appeal will only get you so far in the marketplace.

      • 0 avatar

        Uh…the original Saab 92s were two-cylinder, two-strokes with a transverse tranny. And since the advent of the Saab 9000, every Saab has been using that almost bullet-proof(yeah I know the original ZF autos werent)manual trans system.

    • 0 avatar
      i6

      Electric motors, or… rear engines.

      With electronic stability control and downsized engines, the time has come. The Toyota Previa and Smart For-Two have shown that these can fit below the bumper line. I guarantee sales of such a model would destroy whatever BMW could accomplish with their new FWD platform, and without hurting the almighty brand image.

      The first manufacturer who makes a r/r subcompact will make a killing in that market, but I guess nobody wants to try anything new any more.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Seems like half of the BMW faithful buy/lease the product solely for its cache, so drive wheel for them are inconsequential.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Sadly, you are correct. BMW itself must also agree as every iteration of new models are heavier, more isolated, and less engaging. And sell anyway. So maybe it really does not matter to BMW. The tagline will have to go, much like Standard of the World was eroded into irrelevance…so will the Ultimate Driving Machine…

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I like your argument up until the very end.

    The one series is now the luxury entry point as the 3 has grown. Spreading the new platform here doesn’t save money and will cost over time. Use different naming to segregate these cars, and it won’t hurt the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Argh, just realized where this will all go south. In the US, the dealer treatment will not be tolerated by the bargain buyers. Buyers of BMWs will be known as idiots. It’s one thing to play along for a top of the line automobile, but not a subcompact, FWD commodity.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Derek is 100 percent correct in his analysis. For those who stick to the “BMW drivers are idiots and wouldn’t know the difference” or “it will be the end of the brand” reactions, you are not understanding the argument. Small cars are an increasingly large part of the global car market and if BMW wants a slice of that revenue then will need to produce competitive compact cars. RWD is a very inefficient layout for small cars so FWD is the obvious choice and perfectly suitable for city cars. That doesn’t mean that the 3 series will be FWD but that the BMW product range is expanding into a fast growing market – which is something they will need to do if they are to keep ahead of their competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      People just don’t want to see their brand tarnished by selling more plebian cars.

      I’m no BMW guy, but I can see their point. The Mercedes B cars never seemed right to me.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Your point is valid, and will be even more so it the product really is not worthy of the marque. One might consider the X type Jag, but even worse was the C class Mercedes hatchback of the mid 2000s…That thing was outclassed by an Accord. Some brands don’t belong in certain segments, period.

      • 0 avatar
        glwillia

        I had a B-class as a rental in Switzerland a few years back. It felt, drove, and was priced like a tall upmarket Golf.

        As for the 1-series, I don’t see why it needs to be FWD. There’s nothing wrong with platform sharing (the E87 1-series shares much of its architecture with the E90 3-series), but why does that platform have to be FWD?

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        The problem with the B-Class was not FWd, but an utter lack of luxury.

        Better than the One. Utter lack of luxury, ride compliance and rear seat space. Buying a 116i with an auto indicates a complete loss of the will to live.

  • avatar
    motorrad

    http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/1998-acura-integra-type-r-vs-2010-honda-civic-si.html

    I’ve got a 1999 Intregra GSR since I couldn’t find a Type R that hadn’t been riced or ragged out. If BMW builds something similar, I will be first in line to buy one.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I don’t think BMW will be successful, and I’ll tell you why. BMW will face enormous competition from mainstream brands.

    A mainstream FWD BMW, even a hatch that would compete with the Focus, would be over $30k with options and even the car rags wouldn’t find a reason to recommend it.

    And for comparison’s sake, a fully loaded Focus for $27k vs a BMW FWD car that would start at that much, get nickeled and dimed for options upwards to $35k is a terrible idea.

    I use those numbers because frankly, where do you think a BMW FWD car would start? The last time BMW had a lower priced car (remember the 318i/318ti) it was around $19k, which is around $28k in today’s dollars.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      Maybe a bit off topic. However, I drove a Focus SE last night and was sorely disappointed.

      The car felt cheap to the core.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that 80% of the comments on car sites that extol the virtues of a specific model are written by shills.

      Perhaps the Focus Titanium is nicer, but it is not going to fix the underpinning cheapness that the chassis exhibited in its feel.

      I would spend upwards of 35K on a true “premium” compact. If one existed.

      And now to get back on topic, I wouldn’t spend a dime on a BMW compact premium or not. Because underneath that beautiful sheet metal and premium interior one will eventually find lots of corner cutting, which essentially is the opposite of premium.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      Ford in Europe is worried from the opposite point of view. Apparently a 1 series BMW can be had for a few thousand euros more than a focus. How many people would buy a plebian Ford when a marginal increase in montly payments can get you in a BMW?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        That would depend on the cost of ownership. If one were to factor that in their purchasing decision.

        Assuming all else is equal, when it never is.. If hypothetically an equally equipped Focus in 3 thousand Euros less than a 1 series BMW, but tires cost less, gets better mileage, and has less expensive maintenance requirements, maybe less expensive insurance, a lot of people probably would buy the Focus over the 1 series.

        Aren’t the Euro spec 1 series sort of ho hum though?

      • 0 avatar
        ckb

        Regarding the cost of ownership post, don’t new BMW’s come with a 4 year maintenance plan that includes oil changes, etc? Sure the used car buyer gets stuck with all the bills but BMW doesn’t care about that since the car was already bought.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Many reviewers called Ford Focus (as well as Mondeo) FWD BMW. And there is a reason why. Now BMW have to compete with Ford/VW or Audi/Lincoln. Can BMW win? It can if offers competitive price or uber luxurious interior to justify higher price. I am not sure though they can beat Audi but they may compete with Lincoln. Of course you would mention cache and etc. But BMW will become just another car company (if not already since I heard ATS is more like true BMW than 3 series). All companies fail sooner or later. Being German does not mean you will always win.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    99% of the people who purchase BMW couldn’t even tell you what front wheel drive is, let alone give a crap if their car is front, rear, awd or something else. The only thing that matters is the spinning propeller on the hood.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    There are two people in my office who drive ‘luxury’ cars. In my various conversations with them, neither have a clue whether their cars are FWD or RWD, and neither of them care. The only thing that mattered to them was A) how well appointed the car was, and B) the brand.
    Considering 99% of BMW’s customers fit this description, I’m surprised BMW didn’t move into producing FWD sooner. It may upset the purists and the enthusiasts, but as we’re finding out, we’re in the absolute minority.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    BMW lives by the brand cachet, it will be interesting if it hurts by it as well. This was predicted years ago by economists, as profitable as they are, that Mercedes and BMW, if they were to remain independent would have to go further and further downmarket to maintain profitability and to meet increasing emissions and fuel economy regulations. If a FWD BMW doesn’t sell because people won’t accept it, BMW will have something to look into the mirror about.

  • avatar
    Oelmotor

    Daimler succeeded with the W168(?) A-Class. It was a piece of junk, but they sold over 1 million units. I fully understand why BMW would do this and most consumers do not care whether a car is FWD or RWD.

  • avatar
    wmba

    A fine analysis, Derek.

    I do hope the new models are actually fun to drive. My experience trundling around in a bog standard MINI was one of pure irritation. Poor instrumentation, a rather obvious 4 cylinder sound, obtrusive A-pillar, no real fun. Just a box on wheels. It might go around corners very well if pushed to, but it doesn’t exactly beg for it. I must confess I’ve never seen anyone hooning a MINI around. Not once.

    That’s really the problem with modern cars. Boring to drive for whatever reason. I’m left to find a vehicle that at least has one outstanding characteristic, maybe a nice engine here, or fine handling there. The original 335i with twin turbos, very nice overall – my friend has one. Another friend had a 135i, not bad but somehow had a heavy feel. He now has an M3 V8, with a similar heavy feel, but 2 seconds after you bury the throttle in low gear at least, all is forgotten. Hello 8000 rpm!

    I say the upmarket versions of these new BMW front drivers must have the brio of the Abarth you (and I) like so much. That includes a cheerful interior and a lively chassis.

    Otherwise who will care? Product differientiation by badge alone strikes me as a complete dead end in the long run.

    • 0 avatar

      Re the MINIs, I like them a lot. My friend has a JCW and it’s a blast. I have gotten them as Zipcars before and even with the CVT they put a smile on my face? Owning them is another story, like when my other friend got an $8000 bill when the CVT crapped out.

    • 0 avatar
      joeveto3

      I freaking love my 335, manual, rear wheel drive. The power is sweet. But as good as it is to drive fast, it’s wonderful to drive slow. On Sunday, I drove it for 14 hours straight, and will again this Saturday. I can get mileage in the 30’s if I baby it. And I truly hope it snows, because I have Altimax Artics mounted. Twin turbo rear wheel drive in the snow? Bring it on.

      If this car was 4 cylinder and front wheel drive, I would not have wasted my time or money. I’d be in a Jetta.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    I don’t know how “a 221-horsepower turbocharged three-banger sound?
    ” But for some years ago I drove a 280-horsepower turbocharged three-banger. And it sounded great (Turbocharged Triumph Rocket III motorcycle).

    In my motorcycle I have a 1450 cc two-banger. Sweet engine! When do we see a twin in a car? Shouldn´t each cylinder in an engine have approx 500 cc to make things work at its best?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Auto company critics seem to forget these are businesses, not fantasy leagues for cars they will never buy. Enthusiasts have been the undoing of GM several times (including the new ATS). Germans are smart to follow the dollars… Euros… yuans… etc. Why not reinvest, if survival isn’t an issue…

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    I can see it as a Euro only model lineup. NA will never go for the “premium” hatchback and losing the brand cachet would kill BMW. Huge investment for little return doesn’t seem to be wise.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    It would be interesting to see the studies backing this stuff. The BMW ones.

    OEMs wouldn’t embark in this kind of massive investment if the numbers don’t back the business case.

    Despite don’t liking much the idea, I reckon this will work. Worldwide. And the $$$ will flow.

    All the mainstream B and C segment players have a LOT to worry about, as the Euro Ford exec pointed before.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I think BMW is doing like New Balance shoes. Some of their shoes are $29.99 cheapo shoe store sellers and some are $120.00 shoes for serious runners. Most people don’t notice or care.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I fail to see the problem. BMW already makes FWD cars, they just have Mini badges on them. As has been said, nothing 3-series or bigger is going to change, but it only makes sense for anything smaller to be FWD for packaging reasons. There is nothing intrinsically “non-premium” about FWD – MANY Audis are FWD after all. Personally, I prefer RWD and am willing to pay to get it, there being cheaper FWD cars in the range is irrelevant to me.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I could very well imagine a FWD 1- series. The fact is, the current 1-series has a backseat suitable only for small children and large dogs. With FWD architecture, there ought to be room between the wheels for a rear seat that is acceptable for adults, at least for short distance trips. Of course, it will not be able to be derived from the 3-series platform, as the current 1-series is.

    As far as FWD being “wrong-wheel drive” that’s true only for troglodytes. There are any number of FWD cars that were/are capable of being quite quick, when driven properly, e.g. the V-6 SHO, the Focus ST, the VW GTI, the Fiat Abarth, the Mazdaspeed 3, the Acura RSX, the earlier generation Civic SI and so on. Even the Saab 9-5 was perfectly happy to be hustled around corners. The rise of potent, compact 4-cylinder engines makes this quite a reasonable possibility. The availability of cheap computing power can easily be deployed to limit wheelspin in first gear.

    And, as far a “premium” goes, what people are paying for is not size, but quality of materials, especially interiors. Whatever their considerable virtues, the hot Fords (Mustang, Focus) immediately tell you where the money was saved when you sit inside — the interior. For example, I would say the interior of the Focus SE and the Mustang — including the “premium” version is a step down in materials quality from, say, my old Z3, which was hardly a posh ride, even by ’01 BMW standards. It costs a lot of money to build a nice, comfortable seat and put it in a nice comfortable interior. People will — and do — pay for that, no 0-60 times, cornering forces and so on.

    As far as BMW goes, its roots are in a sporty sedan (2002), but the imperatives of scale manufacturing have driven to target a much broader audience, so it builds expensive luxury cars . . . which still perform quite well.

    As far as MINI goes, it’s a different car, which prioritizes quirkiness (“individuality”) at the expense of ergonomics, and a particular handling style over comfort . . . and that holds true for the Countryman as well. While the Countryman is the only MINI which seats four adults in relative comfort, it still is a rather noisy (at speed), bouncy car. The appearance does everything. My wife keeps nagging me to get a MINI. I tell her that their reliability is a disaster and that they are as expensive to repair as a BMW. Doesn’t matter; they’re cute. I tell her that the ones I have ridden in ride harder and are noisier than my Z3 roadster. Doesn’t matter; they’re cute.

    See how that works? ;-)

  • avatar
    Vera

    Why? For the same reason Hyundai-Kia need to do rear-drive cars.

  • avatar
    WRohrl

    Derek, you may want to check your facts again. I do not believe that Audi offers ANY rear-wheel drive cars in their range. Their top of the line world-wide is always AWD, and almost every line (A8 included, R8 excluded)) is available as FWD in other markets. It’s always been this way with Audi, they’ve never had a RWD only car. At long last, they are finally adjusting the torque splits of the quattro to be rear-wheel biased but that’s about it…

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    What’s next? A motorcycle powered car aka BMW Isetta?
    http://tinyurl.com/b48xf3k

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    This is the type of issue that could be argued or discussed from either point-of-view ad infinitum.

    And as a “BMW guy”, I too have real mixed feelings here. As mentioned on TTAC concerning Porsche and its Cayenne, I don’t really care if they have to sell windmills in order to survive and make 911’s and Boxsters! And that same logic MIGHT be seen to apply to BMW, but I don’t think so.

    It’s a matter of corporate trust for future fidelity. Porsche seems to be able to continue with advanced, true sports-cars that offer mid or rear engines and manual transmissions; and is willing to balance the mix with offerings like Panamera and Cayenne.

    However, BMW is not just balancing its mix: it is in fact moving the whole mixing bowl in a dumbed-down non-enthusiast direction. FWD is only ONE symptom of that motion. Here are some other symptoms:

    1) Three years ago, BMW tried to drop “Ultimate Driving Machine” in the USA for a more literal translation of the German, “Freude am Fahren”, meaning, “Joy in Driving”. (It didn’t work: Bimmerphiles wouldn’t buy in, and “Ultimate Driving Machine” is back.)

    2) When BMW aficionados in the USA got wind of the new M5 (and then M6) being built around ONLY the SMG gearbox, they went ballistic. And BMW now will again being offering a manual, reluctantly.

    3) BMW has given up offering a real sports car. The new Z4 can’t be configured with a manual transmission. Go to the BMW-USA website and try it. The basic current Z4 is a touring car, and little else.

    4) Bloat! Take a look at the GVW of the 3-series over the past 10 years, as an example. If BMW were interested in preserving that car as a reasonable performance machine, weight should have been kept down.

    5) Gadgets! BW has been at the forefront of computerization in automobiles and removed simple knobs and controls that could do things more ergonomically and reliably. The infamous iDrive is an example.

    6) Run-flat tires! These are jammed down our throats whether we want them or not. Ride is harsh, cornering is terrible, and longevity stinks. How performance-oriented does that sound?

    7) The M-brand is being diluted with “M-performance” add-ons for regular line models. Watch how long MT’s survive in the M-brand.

    Well, I could go on. But IMHO what we are witnessing is a shift in the historic BMW and its philosophy, and no one is going to stop it in the long term. Several things will happen:
    a) Manual Transmissions (MT’s) WILL BE phased out, and BMW is conducting an active campaign to do so;
    b) FWD WILL BE created starting with a 1-series, and will be introduced elsewhere as the market and brand reputation will allow. It will serve as the mainstay for the entire product line, and yes, they can do it competitively.
    c) Electrification/hybridization will continue with Active Hybrid concepts becoming routine, in even lower models.
    d) Diesels. We WILL be seeing a wave of new stateside diesels from both Audi and BMW in the next 2-5 years. Gob’s of low-end torque, but high-rev screaming HP with MT’s? Forget it.

    So, BMW ain’t your father’s BMW any more. BMW is going big time and will “sell its mother” if it has to. If you want RWD and MT’s for fun performance driving in new vehicles in the future, you may be restricted to Porsche, Corvette, Viper, Mustang, Charger, Camaro, and Allard. Can’t even get a decent Ferrari anymore…..

    —————–

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Har har, I put a Rondel hood badge and the chrome Kidney from a E28 onto my Ranger. It gets a laugh from the car heads. I know many BMW enthusiasts. They tend to I-6s, manual transmissions and lag at least 15 yrs behind the current models. But, other than for advertising, they are not a significant group. For BMW to build a better transportation appliance will happen if the elves see potential profit. Brand dilution or progress?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I can’t see it as any more than brand dilution.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “I know many BMW enthusiasts. They tend to I-6s, manual transmissions and lag at least 15 yrs behind the current models.”

      This is the operative point. This is true of many cars’ enthusiasts, and a lot of these enthusiasts are buying used, not new. That’s why you get all these enthusiasts who say they will buy a TT-RS or an RS4 Avant, despite not having the funds to do so. They don’t want to buy it new; they want it available in the used car market in several years.

      For the bottom line, BMW has to focus on those who buy them new, and it seems like that’s what UKL is about. The only people who will squawk will be the purists, but you can’t make them happy without bringing back E36 tooling as a 2014 model, and they’re not the ones buying.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        So is your argument the folks who buy new don’t really care what they are driving provided its the right look or right badge on the hood?

        “but you can’t make them happy without bringing back E36 tooling as a 2014 model”

        I was under the impression this is EXACTLY what Cadillac did for its ATS with the exception it was modeled after the E46.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The E46’s feedback was numb compared to the E36’s, so there was no point in cloning it. The idea that BMW buyers don’t know or care a bit about anything but the badge comes from BMW, which has been claiming for years that he majority of their European 1-series customers think their cars are FWD.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “So is your argument the folks who buy new don’t really care what they are driving provided its the right look or right badge on the hood?”

        No, that’s what reductionists who can’t think critically will say. In fact, it’s BMW itself that has said their buyers don’t know FWD from RWD. That means the enthusiasts are probably less relevant than the enthusiasts would like to think.

        I would describe it as BMW knowing their market. Those who buy new still care about what they’re driving and may care about the look and badge too, but they don’t care about the enthusiasts’ ideal of purity. They care about “premium” as DC Bruce said, and until other brands can give the premium feel, they’ll keep buying BMWs as a proxy for that.

        In any case, this is a US-centric point, since BMW already has downscale models in Europe, relatively speaking, compared to the US.

        This is really the same argument for Lotus making cars that aren’t as Lotus-ey. If it means they survive and thrive, then the enthusiasts should cheer it on. Similarly, each of these FWD cars that sells means that more M3s and M5s are possible.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    In what way is the A3 the epitome of automotive innovation?

    BMW will do fine with these if they drive like a well appointed Mini.

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    Still patiently waiting for manufacturers to start putting newly lightened and downsized, heavily slanted transverse transaxles/motors in the REAR of the car, where they belong.

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    “But the post-recession era has seen…”

    BZZZT! What “post-recession era”?!?

    There’ve been some blips in economic growth, up and down around the zero line, and for some quarters — no more than two or three consecutive ones at a time, IIRC — the world has *technically* been out of recession. Only to plunge back into one a quarter or two later.

    For all intents and purposes, the global economy has been in a depression since the US housing bubble(*) torpedoed it in 2007.


    (*): And globalization, outsourcing, the constant greed and exploitation by the 10/1/0.1 percent.


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