By on March 14, 2014

gemballa

What’s the Volkswagen Group’s most profitable brand? Is it Bentley? Lamborghini?

Obviously it’s Porsche. I mean, how much could it possibly cost to make a water-cooled six-cylinder engine and a cheapo plastic interior? How much does an Outback 3.6R cost? Everything over that’s profit, for sure. But how much profit is there in every Porsche?

The odd thing about automakers being public corporations is that they are compelled to pretend that they are milling their products out of unobtanium in their public advertising while simultaneously bragging to their shareholders how they were able to make the crankshafts out of recycled lambskin condoms. No surprise that VW’s making hay of Porsche’s profitability in their annual report, and no surprise that the investor press has picked up on it. Bloomberg, therefore, read the report and came up with the amazing number of $23,000 profit per Porsche.

Bentley’s close to Porsche, with a per-car profit of about $21,000, but a cursory reading of this month’s Robb Report shows that Bentleys cost quite a bit more than Porsches. The cheapest Bentley costs more than all but the most expensive Porsches. So that profit margin is doubly amazing. Bloomberg further notes that

Indeed, Volkswagen’s high-end models carried the company last year, as demand waned for its more affordable cars and it poured research dollars into retooling its big sellers. The company R&D expenses climbed 23 percent last year, sucking up almost 6 percent of revenue. A euro that steadily gained on the dollar and a shaky Continental economy didn’t help results either. The company’s total sales for 2013 ticked up only 2.2 percent, to €197 billion ($275 billion at this morning’s exchange rate), while income slid 58 percent, to €9.1 billion.

There are two ways to look at this news. The Wannabe Warren Buffets who infest every car blog and continually tell people to drive a used ’89 Excel so they can put all their money into flipping houses or Bitcoins will deliver passionate, faux-jaded dissertations on how corporations have the almighty duty to earn as much money as possible and how the product is completely immaterial. The other crowd, we’ll call them Automobile Enthusiasts, will wonder if perhaps Porsche could sell the base 911 for $59,995, the way they did in 1995. True, back then the dollar was worth more, but the 1995 Porsche 911 was also milled from unobtanium.

In reality, the per-vehicle profit number includes the Cayman and the upcoming Macan, both of which probably cost about as much to build as a Santa Fe does, so I wouldn’t look for lower prices on Boxsters any time soon. But if you’re an investor, you must be very impressed with Volkswagen now…

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81 Comments on “Dial 911 For Profit...”


  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    Kind of reminds me of this: http://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1972-cadillac-coupe-deville-a-beginning-as-well-as-the-beginning-of-the-end/

    Good strategy, works well – until it doesn’t…

  • avatar
    dal20402

    “The Wannabe Warren Buffets who infest every car blog and continually tell people to drive a used ’89 Excel so they can put all their money into flipping houses or Bitcoins will deliver passionate, faux-jaded dissertations on how corporations have the almighty duty to earn as much money as possible and how the product is completely immaterial.”

    This sentence still has me rolling on the floor laughing as I struggle to type. Especially as this group is particularly strong here on TTAC.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cayenne alone was responsible for at least half of Porsche’s profit. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cayenne was the most profitable non-exotic vehicle on the market today, measured in terms of percentage of MSRP. The only close rivals are probably the Escalade and the LX570.

  • avatar
    jco

    how about driving a 1989 Honda hatchback while (theoretically) saving money to buy that white 993 C2 that keeps appreciating in value? no?

  • avatar
    philadlj

    And considering there are more Porsches on the planet’s roads today than at any other point in history, the case can’t be made that the extra cost is for exclusivity.

    Were I a sufficiently moneyed gentleman and owned a recent Porsche or three, I’d wonder if I’d even care about them boasting about how they made an average of the equivalent of a fully loaded Chevy Sonic off of every car they sold.

    I mean, what am I, owner of a Porsche or three, going to do with a fully-loaded Sonic’s worth of money anyway? I might even be proud of the fact. “They’ll use those profits to make my next Porsches even better!”

    A random aside: I’ve heard U.S. Lexus dealers are begging for a luxury VAN to sell. With that in mind, I wonder if there’s any possibility at all of a Porsche-badged and tuned Sharan or Touran down the road…

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    So what automaker IS milling their cars from unobtainium these days – you know, like a ’78 300D or a ’91 Lexus LS400?

    And if the answer is “no one, at any price,” as I fear it is, then who is coming closest? Honda?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The answer still appears to be Lexus. They’re better than ever in reliability and durability, although the rest of the industry has been catching up faster than they’ve been improving.

      Acura and, believe it or not, the more expensive divisions of the domestic makers (Cadillac, Lincoln) are also very good.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Cost cutting from chinzier interios (IS) to more flimsy doors.

        What helps reliability for Lexus (as well as for Toyota) is that they haven’t made any major changes to drive-trains in years.

  • avatar
    steamcorners

    The ’89 Excel is for high-rollers. A 80’s vintage Cavalier is where it’s at. More Lordstown Bombers in junkyards=cheaper replacement parts.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Third way to view the news: Extra income goes into race car development. God bless Porsche.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    $60K in 1995 is $92K today Jack. And back in those days Porsche was on the brink of Lotusdom. You don’t HAVE to buy the options that make those profits, dude. The 911 is still one of, if not the greatest all around cars of all time. Just cause it’s not 100HP less powerful, cramped, more dangerous etc doesnt’ mean it’s any less good.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      Not to mention the Cayman S is a very capable car and can be had for just over $60K.

      I’m a little disappointed that the 911 is our of my price range now but I can’t really blame Porsche for keeping it exclusive. They offer a fine car for $60K if that’s all you’re willing to spend.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        A new Cayman S cannot be realistically had for just over $60K because when you visit the dealership you will realize that you *will* be buying ridiculous option packages because that’s how all the porsches are.

        • 0 avatar
          daver277

          Unfortunately there is no option to give it a third pedal.
          Caymans are for Dakar-wanabees.

        • 0 avatar
          philipwitak

          re: “…new Cayman S cannot be realistically had for just over $60K because when you visit the dealership you will realize that you *will* be buying ridiculous option packages because that’s how all the porsches are.”

          not so. i purchased a new ‘standard’ cayman off the lot from pioneer porsche in 2007. only options on it were arctic silver paint, basic porsche floor-mats and 19″ turbo wheels – which i insisted be replaced by the typical 18″ cayman s wheels. [and all i’ve added since is the rear window sun-screen. gets hot down here in san diego.

          entire car stickered at somewhere around $56k and, because i was a ‘valued’ previous customer, bought it at a flat 10% discount off that – without any trade-in.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          If spending more than $40K on a car, why would you not order it exactly the way you want it? ESPECIALLY a Porsche, where the opportunity to make it your own from that crazy option list is there for the taking.

          Unless, of course, the dealer happens to have exactly the car of your dreams just sitting there. Do you really need your $60K toy TODAY like a 3yo?

  • avatar
    wmba

    But, but people I know though not necessarily respect are to this day convinced that BMWs, Mercedes and Porsches are made by scientists wearing extra white starched lab coats, gloves and steel-rimmed spectacles.

    You can’t convince these souls that there isn’t something extremely special about these high-end FGCs. And it’s a secret. Tap the side of the aristocratic schnoz. Nobody ever said you had to have a functioning brain and logic system because you have lots of extra bucks.

    However, all that said, the essence of any good economic transaction is that both parties are happy, the seller and the buyer. If nobody is complaining about the price they paid for their Porsche, why should I care? Why should anyone else care?

    If people without the requisite loot complain, well BFD. Inconsequential whining.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      As I like to say, if what makes a 3-series worth $15k more than a Camry is either not noticeable by you, or not important to you, then enjoy your Camry and spend the $15k on something that makes you happy.

    • 0 avatar
      fozone

      @wmba, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Porsches aren’t “superior” for driving any more than Rolexes are “superior” for telling time (I have a ’80s vintage quartz Timex that does better. And it can even do math!)

      These things are all just jewelry, superior to the plebeian alternative only through the power of the public’s imagination.

      Taken in that context, Jack may as well shake his fist at DeBeers or Tiffany’s, their pricing philosophies are similar.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        While I see what you are getting at…you are totally wrong this is not at all like our favorite corollary here, the watch. The quartz watch actually performs better.

        The Porsche cars/SUVs typically do in fact perform better in many ways than the less expensive options. Sometimes that is very subjective stuff. And you have the “manly jewelry” effect like the wrist watch mixed in there too. It is up to each person to decided if the money for the product is worth it. I can’t afford one so the choice is easy for me!

        • 0 avatar
          fozone

          But today, *how* does a Porsche perform better? i’m not convinced at all that they do (I say this as a former owner.)

          In the 70s and 80s, possibly — cars in general were crap, the bar was low, and objectively Porsches were faster, handled better, and were subjectively ‘fun’ to drive, relative to what existed. And they were somewhat robust — you could track them without worrying about your IMS flying out and killing both a spectator and your warranty claim.

          But the quality and performance gap has become so narrow these days. Cars can only get to 60 so fast; people can only pull so many Gs before passing out.

          In 2014, when a Mitsubishi Evo can go about as fast and corner about as well — for less than 1/3rd of the price of a base 911 — what does that say about the 911 as a *car* (NOT as a status symbol). I don’t think it is very flattering.

          • 0 avatar
            daver277

            +1

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            Well according to the auto journalists, the Boxster and 911 drive so sweet! I guess more subjective. I think there is style, interior quality, actually trunk space ha I think a 911 beats an Evo…

            I guess it just seems like there is something there, but I don’t have enough money to experience all these cars and say.

            We all know Porsche has never been the best performance for the money EVER. So the question is…is anything more purely a luxurious wasteful purchase? Seems like some BMW lovers here would disagree, where is KRhodes…

          • 0 avatar
            fozone

            @Power6

            the problem i’m having is that after experiencing 80s era Porsches, the newer ones are just… CHEAP. Feel cheap inside, look cheaper than their ancestors, etc.

            There’s no other way to describe it. Try to get your hands on one of the last air-cooled 911s, or even a late 944/968. They feel like they are built to last 1000 years.

            This is why I can’t see myself buying a new one; If they are sourcing their interior components from the same OEMs as, say, Honda, why exactly am I paying $90k?

            One thought experiment I’ve frequently pondered is how much it would cost to build a car like the 968 or the last “real” S-class, the W140, today, using steel of the same thickness, interior components of the same quality, etc…. I’m guessing I’d fall over dead if I saw the sticker.

          • 0 avatar

            > Well according to the auto journalists, the Boxster and 911 drive so sweet! I guess more subjective. I think there is style, interior quality, actually trunk space ha I think a 911 beats an Evo…

            The irony is that from a pure driving perspective the Evo is far more sophisticated than any 911.

            The awd system is basically arbitrary thrust vectoring, and the suspension also has somewhat arbitrary roll distribution, ie. the type banned from WRC and Dakar for being too awesome:

            http://www.tenneco.com/original_equipment/ride_control/

            (this is what they licensed for their dominant Dakar Pajero Evo, and similar to banned WRC active suspension).

            German claims to be the ultimate driving machine is mere trite marketing to the gullible who don’t know how cars work. It’s telltale sign of the idle rich to pay money to feel good about yourself.

          • 0 avatar
            Grahambo

            Fozone’s points are very true; 70s-early 90s Porsches and Benzes(and certainly going back even longer in the case of Mercedes) were so far ahead of the rest of the market in terms of build quality that it boggles the mind. I still see an unbelievable number of Porsches and Benzes from that era being used in daily driver or at least semi-daily driver situations. (And have happily done so myself until a couple years ago with a 90 560SEl and continue to do so today with a 83 944, which is about as humble as an 80s Porsche gets. Even with the old 924 interior which has some cheaper quality touches, the car positively exudes solidity – I know Syke is a believer in the glories of the 924S-944-968).

            With the exception of Volvo 240s (which are quite durable although don’t hit the heights of similar era Porsches and Mercedes, nor should they given how much less expensive than they were at the time) and 80s 3-series (fun to drive but nowhere near as solid), I can’t say the same about any other 80s era car. Can’t recall the last time I saw an Audi 4000 or 80s Cutlass Supreme on the road (although they certainly were everywhere in the early 80s).

            While much is made of the fact that garden variety cars are now much better than they were in, say, the 80s, the gap has closed significantly from the other end as well – while still at the higher end of the spectrum, modern Porsches and Mercedes feel so much more ordinary and no longer anywhere near as special. Don’t get me wrong, both companies still make fine vehicles but the additional expense to purchase them (especially in the case of Porsche) no longer seems that justified when compared to other alternatives – most particularly, from a long term ownership perspective.

            Frankly, if Porsche charged $100K for a 911 today that felt as solid and made for the long haul (admittedly with no small amount of maintenance expense) as any SC through 993, I’d probably do whatever it took to pull the trigger, with the knowledge that I could amortize the cost over decades. Don’t feel that way about 997s or 991s, nice as they are. As others have pointed out, Boxsters and Caymans strike me as a significantly more palatable purchase just because their cost of entry (can be) much more reasonable in the real world and their dynamics really are superb. And I do enjoy the sightings of Cayennes when channel surfing and I come across one of those Real Housewives shows.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            fozone I am with you there. I do get to sit in all these cars when the auto show comes around, I was actually struck by just how cheap a Cayenne is inside (along with many other “luxury” automobiles) it could be a Hyundai in there. Many of the other marques do it better for half the money. Or for the same money look at a Range Rover very nice. I do appreciate the quality of the older German stuff. Mercedes doesn’t build as crushingly expensive E-class like they used to, but Porsche still charges the same money for cheap plastic interiors.

            Still people be raving about the way the Boxster drives, and that Cayenne is the a seriously fast SUV. It does seem like to say there is no substance at all is a bit too far. Maybe not enough, I would totally agree there.

            agenthex given the choice I am driving the Evo too, right with you. The 959 was the pinnacle of Porsche AWD and they got cheaper and simpler since. I guess maybe the PDK is better than the TC-SST in practice so there is that.

          • 0 avatar

            I remember going to a car show and seeing Ford at their malise worst, next to Mercedes. It was jarring.

            Today, the shut lines on the Kia are almost as good as the Mercedes. My Golf is tighter than a lot of more expensive cars.

            The high end car makers have a problem-the quality gap is mostly closed and minivans can 0-60 in 7 seconds. What they have to offer is less tangible at times…

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            “In 2014, when a Mitsubishi Evo can go about as fast and corner about as well — for less than 1/3rd of the price of a base 911 — what does that say about the 911 as a *car* (NOT as a status symbol). I don’t think it is very flattering.”

            A Mitsubishi Evo will not have the same driving dynamics as a rear-engined RWD car. Not even close. I’m sure you could come up with a fairly well-balanced front-engine RWD car that is less expensive and somewhat comparable, but the Evo is not.

            Yes, I’m sure that many 911 owners leave the nannies on and don’t actually play with the car at its limits, but that’s a criticism of the owners, not the car.

            Also, people can tolerate many times the accelerative force that any street car is capable of, whether it be linear acceleration or radial. So we’re nowhere near that barrier.

          • 0 avatar

            > A Mitsubishi Evo will not have the same driving dynamics as a rear-engined RWD car. Not even close.

            You’re right, because it’s far better given thrust can be arbitrarily directed rather than fixed in a perpetually unbalanced manner.

            > Also, people can tolerate many times the accelerative force that any street car is capable of, whether it be linear acceleration or radial. So we’re nowhere near that barrier.

            Sure, but they can’t tolerate the accelerative forces of hitting a tree due to often minor errors when driving at speed.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      “However, all that said, the essence of any good economic transaction is that both parties are happy, the seller and the buyer. ”

      I always thought a sign of a good transaction and fair compromise is both parties are miserable. If someone is happy, it’s because they think they “won.”

    • 0 avatar

      Marketing is simply democratization of the yes-man. Instead of someone on payroll to remind you how smart+cool+generally awesome you are which is expensive and therefore reserved for the rich, the modern yes-men collectively broadcast their sycophancy and that cost is built into the product margins.

      > However, all that said, the essence of any good economic transaction is that both parties are happy, the seller and the buyer. If nobody is complaining about the price they paid for their Porsche, why should I care? Why should anyone else care?

      It’s fun to point and laugh at stupid. Not the same thing as caring except maybe said fun goes to zero with diminishing number of stupids.

  • avatar
    elimgarak

    I hate that I love Porsches so much.

  • avatar

    Amazing to see this. The one thing no one discusses is profit per vehicle, or how much cost of production is.

    We’d all be so pissed we paid $42,500.00 for a car that cost them $8,500 to build…..

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    They haven’t had to pay for any kind of styling in 50 years, what do you expect?

    Also, a big chunk of that probaby comes from making people pay for add-ons like windshield wipers ($800), radio knobs ($600), a needle on the speedometer ($1100), the tank of gas that comes with the car ($70), and so on.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Heinz Branitzki- “if a major manufacturer took over Porsche then it would take five years, no more, for the Porsche spirit to die.”

    • 0 avatar
      daver277

      Great point.
      It’s been about 5 years under VW now.
      Many new Porsche drivers just want a car that impresses people and says Porsche. Just like many people who buy a car with a three-pointed star.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Why is this remotely shocking? The average Porsche on my local dealer’s lot has $20K+ in options on it. Those are pretty much PURE PROFIT. You can pretty much double the price of any of their cars if you go nuts. They likely make a fairly pedestrian profit on the base price of the car. But you just can’t resist – even I, normally a master of restraint ran up $5-6K in options configuring a Cayman last week. To end up with a car with notably fewer toys than my jail cell spec 328i. To get feature parity would have been another $15K. And if people will pay it, why the heck not, more power to them!

    Really, some other makes should take a lesson in this – how much extra could Honda make charging $1500 extra for a color other than black or silver on a manny-tranny Accord?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      I don’t think they could, Porsche is in an enviable position where the people who cater to the brand have the income available to pay a premium for frivolous options.

      I imagine for the more mundane vehicle manufacturers optioning up cars in such fashion would be viewed as gouging if it were adopted industry wide when you step into the stealership and get an itemized list of upgrades that was formerly included in a package.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Totally expected, but it would be cool as heck though. I mean Jack got green paint on his S5, I think the Audi exclusive comes down a couple models from that even.

        Would totally love to be able to drop 3k or so and get a factory quality custom paint color on a WRX or Mustang. Of course that will never happen.

        • 0 avatar
          FractureCritical

          you used to be able to do that at Ford and GM. You could pick any color from any car (sometimes over many model years) and get the car custom painted.
          There’s a smaller contractor in my area called Crisdel, and they still custom order all their fords in 1957 Thunderbird Robin’s Egg Blue.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    “Recycled lambskin condoms.” This kind of commentary is why I look forward to your articles, Mister Baruth…

  • avatar
    Power6

    I’m sorta surprised that Bentley has such low profit. I guess there is great paint, hand stitched leather and book matched wood and stuff. But just seems like they must be really trying hard to waste some dough on building the thing to get up over 200k spent. Or maybe the marketing dept blows it all.

    • 0 avatar

      > I’m sorta surprised that Bentley has such low profit.

      If you look at the figures (pg 23 of the report) what’s surprising is that the per unit price of Porsche & Bentley aren’t THAT different, but volume is order of magnitude off.

      When you’re producing that few cars, the cost apiece goes way up.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      I wouldn’t be shocked if the Mulsanne sopped up a lot of the profits generated by the Continental/Flying Spur. While the latter is basically an up-spec’ed Phaeton, the Mulsanne has a model-specific engine and an entire PLATFORM that isn’t shared by anything else in VAG.

  • avatar

    It’s also worth noting Porsche Financial Services numbers are included in the Porsche car results whereas the VW numbers are split off.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    Jack, Seems that you left that post unfinished… Was looking for a punchy-er finish or …

    And buying the image, or life styling’s, costs something. You wanted content? Idealists always suffer needlessly.

    So, we have Porsche with big profits, and US OEM’s with big profits on SUV’s and Pick-ups. Seems the better investment for investors, is the US OEM’s, as, isn’t VW mostly privately held(?)with a large percentage held by the government of ‘Lower Saxony’, leaving few public shares to be obtained.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    Am I the only one seeing that VW is dumping cash into R&D more than before and they’re still slow to market with new product? I had said years ago when MQB was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread that it was a bad idea. New VW has this massive, over engineered platform that it MUST keep not only in continual development, but they MUST have a massively onerous system to keep the eleventy nine different models that use the system in line and tracked for conformance.

    The platform now underpins pretty much everything they make that isn’t a premium brand chassis specific model. That means there’s no hedging of bets, no parallel development, no independant R&D. They are probably already drowning under the weight of it all.

    • 0 avatar

      > The platform now underpins pretty much everything they make that isn’t a premium brand chassis specific model. That means there’s no hedging of bets, no parallel development, no independant R&D.

      The reality is that cars are becoming more complex and therefore more expensive to engineer. Simply compare what’s inside a modern car to one from the 80’s. No only is it illegal to sell those now, nobody would buy one anyway.

      It doesn’t take a genius to figure out 2 or 3 platforms is much more feasible than the same resources split over 10.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    REALITY CHECK.

    Having read most of the comments above, and being the owner of two BMW’s, allow me to toss in a few cents worth:
    Dr-Ing. Helmut Panke, the former BMW CEO, had a philosophy “Premium, Immer Premium”, which means premium materials, design, construction, engineering, etc…and always done without regard to internal costs, even when above the wailing and whining of corporate accountants. (Didn’t last long, did it?) So, in the old Bimmer days (2002tii, E30, E36, E46), there was something real to crow about.

    But, here is my experience from both the 2006 325i and 2007 Z4 3.0 si, but I’ll use the former for comparison.

    Yes, BMW (the same could be said of Porsche) does have SOME better construction, technology, and materials, assembled with great fit-&-finish; and does have a little better performance drivability than a Chevy Impala or Toyota Camry. However, BMW suffers from what I call “Milking the Benefit”. The car should be more expensive than direct counterparts, but not as much more as being demanded.

    And, as someone pointed out, cars like BMW and Porsche taught the world how to make really nicely performing cars, in terms of cornering, handling, and braking (or is it breaking? (^_^)). And the gap is closing. But the reality is that 90% of people in America would never know the difference 90% of the time. Yes, I have driven both BMW’s at 9/10ths and did things you could never dream of with a Camry, but the cost of the adrenaline rush is usually new tires and brakes. So why do it? And if I track the car, then even more than tires and brakes gets replaced!…

    Are either of these cars reliability champs? NO.
    Do either of these cars ride comfortably (Cadillac style)? NO
    Do either depreciate slowly and retain a high re-sale value? NO
    Do either get especially good fuel mileage? NO, but it’s OK.
    Does the new electro-mechanical steering give great road feel? NO
    Does the 325i have unusually great cornering? NO ( g= 0.89)
    How about blazing acceleration? NO (0-to-60 =~ 7 sec)
    Does the car avoid consuming its battery when left unattended for 2 weeks? NO
    Is the price of the dealer-requested oil change cheap? NO
    Does the straight six with linear dyno-curve (torque vs RPM) work well in traffic? NO

    Is it nicely made? YES
    Quality materials? YES (some exceptions, like cheap plastic vinyl sun visors.)
    Manual Transmission? YES
    Pretty design? YES
    Corner reasonably? YES

    Was the 325i worth $30,457 new in 2006, compared to other Japanese and American cars? BARELY.
    I would say that the vehicle was about $2,000-$3,000 over-priced. That amount is the “Milking the Benefit” I mentioned.

    Would I have been happier with a Camry? NO
    Would I have been happier with an Impala? NO
    So, would I buy a new BMW 328i (successor to the 325i) again? NO

    ———————–

    • 0 avatar
      DrivenToMadness

      I’m not expert enough to tell whether the differences in construction method/material amount to discernible differences in the driving experience, but the attached pics showing F30 BMW vs. Merc C-class doors are quite telling. The bimmer’s doors are basically constructed the same way a Camry’s or Accord’s would be. It’s also quite interesting how all the BMW fanboys either dismiss or denigrate the OP. (I own an E90 BMW and I know I also have the Camry-style doors, and I can’t stand those idiot fanboys)

      I have no idea if the modern C-class is as “bullet-proof” as its predecessor but the bimmer does seem more cheaply built in comparison.

      http://www.f30post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=792508

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        DrivenToMadness – –

        Yup. I agree. The fanboy lack-of-objectivity is a real pain sometimes. All the BMW performance glorification stuff for me was brought to an end on roads when my BMW Z4 was tailed about a 100-feet back by a Ford Raptor pickup truck, … and he was gaining on me overall (although not in tight turns). That Ford suspension must be amazing, and the Raptor’s HP doesn’t hurt either….

        And yes, BMW’s have been getting more cheaply made, with a plastic impeller in the water pump and plastic over-flow tank. My E90 325i has a cheap vinyl sun visor; the E85 Z4 has hard materials and bulging, warped leather panels on the doors. I am afraid that the Panke era has drawn to a close under Norbert Reithofer…

        —————-

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I might cheekily suggest that a Raptor gaining on you had more to do with your lack of Baruthian talent behind the wheel than any excess of capability of the Raptor – though a huge amount of horsepower can make for a relative lack of cornering ability. I have no doubt that a Raptor could keep up with me on a public road in anything I own too – I will only go just so fast on a public road.

          As to those cheap plastic sunvisors, I would call them better than “expensive” cloth covered ones for the simple reason that after the greasy inspection monkey puts his pawprints all over them, they are much more easily cleaned. BTDT, had to make said inspection monkey’s employer replace the sunvisor after much hassle…

          I don’t think I have EVER owned a car that did not have a plastic coolant overflow tank. Plastic waterpump impeller, OK, that was certainly a failed experiment.

          And I will say again, this is all the same grousing about BMW that is repeated with EVERY new generation of them since the e21 320i replaced the 2002 40-odd years ago. “Too big and fat”. “Not as well made.” “The old ones were sooooo much better”. Yet every generation is a better car by every objective standard, and most subjective ones too. Quitcherbitching, if you don’t like it, save $15K and buy an Accord already. I’m not a total BMW fanboy, I have owned more Saabs, Volvos, and Peugeots than BMWs, but BMW makes a rather nice car. Not by any stretch of the imagination perfect, no car is.

          Finally, let’s be a bit real. Everyone expects all this content and then some in cars these days. They need to have a zillion airbags. They need to be able to talk to our phones and keep us “infotained”. They need to have a plethora of labor saving gadgets. They need to run for 200K+ with the most minimal repairs and maintenance. Yet ultimately, we are simply not willing to actually PAY for all this stuff. An ’84 e30 318i with 120hp, no A/C as standard, no sunroof, no STEREO, crank windows, 2drs and plastic seats cost $18,000+ back then. That is *$40,500* today, and many people think the CPI inflation calculator underprices things due to the wage stagnation of the past couple decades. Can you even IMAGINE paying that much for a car like that today? Oh, and in Maine that ’84 e30 would have had rust holes in it within 10 years, and you would have spent a small fortune on just scheduled maintenance, never mind repairs. So I can forgive the occasional cheap bit in my e91.

          The good old days were not actually all that good…

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            So given your history with BMW, do you think they have cheapened their cars and where did the money come out of? The case seems pretty clear cut with say M-B but less so with BMW.

            No doubt we always glorify the good ‘ol days, that’s what we humans do.

          • 0 avatar

            > And, as someone pointed out, cars like BMW and Porsche taught the world how to make really nicely performing cars, in terms of cornering, handling, and braking

            > I might cheekily suggest that a Raptor gaining on you had more to do with your lack of Baruthian talent behind the wheel than any excess of capability of the Raptor

            Often the “bavarian” advantage in real rather than marketing terms is just more screws to hold things in place so they feel “solid” and some overdampening in the suspension for the same perceived effect.

            Also not unlike how the viscous hysteresis built into a compartment door creates a perception of luxury. It’s true that this requires more $ or attention to detail, but perception is not the same thing as function.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Power6

            I think “cheapened” is not really the right word. I don’t think my e91 is built of worse stuff than my e30s or e28s. I don’t think the F31 is built of worse stuff than the e91. But for the F cars I do think they have softened the ride and handling a bit. I did not think the sport package was necessary on my e91, but I would not buy an F31 without it, for example. I actually like the lighter steering. They are not as simple as they once were. And I think buyers tastes have changed, both here and in the old countries. I prefer the simpler interior of the e9x, but I do think the f3x is more “modern” looking.

            I think MBs big problem is that they literally did not have any culture of cost containment. Until the mid-late 90’s they engineered a car, figured out what it cost, slapped a markup on it, and that was the price. But they were pricing themselves out of the market. So they had to cost-cut and they did it very, very badly. BMW did not really have that issue to the same extent. They did have to do some cost cutting, but not nearly as much.

            One thing I don’t see brought up much is the “green factor” issues. There was a HUGE push in Germany to make the manufacturing and especially disposal of cars more environmentally friendly. That was the direct cause of a lot of issues with the cars. MB wiring harnesses that disintegrated. Worse rust protection. Paint issues. Plastics issues. These all resulted from making the cars out of less toxic and more easily recycled materials. But they learned from their mistakes and the cars are now probably better than ever in those areas 15-20 years on. I certainly don’t ever expect to see any rust issues with my e91. Both my e30s and e28s had rust holes by age 15, and those cars were probably better than the cars that immediately followed them. Time will tell.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I talk to people that work on BMWs ranging from an 1800ti to the latest Feces class cars. Anyone that tells you depth of quality wasn’t at its peak with the E30 and E28 doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @agenthex

            Is perception not everything in the world? Particularly for a luxury good? And similarly the “look and feel” of something is all-important. Not that I consider a 3-series to be really a luxury good, just a nice car.

            Reality is that a manual transmission Toyota Matrix will functionally do just about everything that my BMW wagon will do, for about $25K less. But it won’t feel as nice, nor will it put a big smile on my face as I run it through the gears. Just like a $25 Timex will tell time just as well as a $3500 Rolex. All those little attentions to detail added together ARE ultimately the difference between a Camry and a 328i. As I said much farther up this thread, if those things don’t matter to you, buy the Camry and spend the extra money on something that matters to you. Those thing DO matter to me, so I bought a new BMW a couple years ago, once I could comfortably afford it. I’ll probably buy another one in 2016, though I have been looking at Caymans lately. It’s only money, you can’t take it with you and I have no kids to spend it on.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @CJinSD

            And yet I have owned those cars and can quite confidently say the new ones are better in pretty much every way. Of course the old ones were easier to fix, they were as complicated as a hammer. An ’83 Accord is a lot easier to fix than a 2014 too, but that doesn’t make it a better car. How do we reconcile this difference in perception?

            Other than a German ran over your dog as a kid or something.

          • 0 avatar

            > Is perception not everything in the world? Particularly for a luxury good? And similarly the “look and feel” of something is all-important. Not that I consider a 3-series to be really a luxury good, just a nice car.

            Perception has largely subjective/cultural roots, so there isn’t really an analytically reasoned answer to the value of a particular non-functional aspect of “look and feel”.

            > Just like a $25 Timex will tell time just as well as a $3500 Rolex. All those little attentions to detail added together ARE ultimately the difference between a Camry and a 328i.

            Yes and no. The timepiece is a great example because it’s clear that purposely making something more complicated often has negative returns (ie. peizo more accurate), whereas overdone viscous dampening at least has arguable if often poor functional value.

            > It’s only money, you can’t take it with you and I have no kids to spend it on.

            Fair point. However while perceptions are everyone’s own, but they’re not entitle to exclusive interpretation of its merits.

          • 0 avatar
            NMGOM

            Hi Krhodes – – –

            I enjoyed your post. Good one.

            No doubt I should take your advice on “Quitcherbitching”. And it is true that I was “floating” through that long route on WI 70 from Minocqua to Hayward, WI, at maybe 7/10ths, — while the Raptor was pushing 8/10ths-9/10ths to keep up. But he did it successfully. That’s my point: for ordinary assertive road driving, the difference in handling advantages of BMW are now diminishing relative to other vehicles — even good pickup trucks!

            Example: I certainly feel that some of this BMW cornering and handling reputation may be overblown. Here is a video that shows a Hummer (of all things!) keeping up with a BMW that spun out of control on the Nürburgring:
            http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1090924_bmw-spins-on-ring-almost-gets-eaten-by-hummer-video

            ——————-

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            @ NMGOM

            The driver’s talent and willingness to push safety limits on public roads are pretty big factors with that Raptor keeping up. That and considerable horsepower.

            Maybe the driver races that Raptor off road and also has a track car and happened to be really good. Maybe he was just a sociopathic a$$hole with no inhibitions about pushing safety boundaries on public roads. Who knows?

            When I had my E39 540, I’ll confess to using a turnout on highway 1 to let a Prius pass. It sounds embarrassing, but I had three family members in the car – besides the safety issue, I was trying not to make them car sick. I don’t think this incident indicates a narrow performance gap between a Prius and 540.

          • 0 avatar
            NMGOM

            burgersandbeer – – –

            You said, “I’ll confess to using a turnout on highway 1 to let a Prius pass.”

            Good judgment. I’ve done the same thing, in EACH of the 5 vehicles I own, regardless of what the are. If someone wants to drive beyond their car’s capabilities and road conditions, fine — I’ll be happy to pull over and let them pass. Don’t want to mess with that situation. One on occasion I found them 2-3 miles down the road with a WI State Trooper parked behind them, lights flashing….and yes, I did not succeed in suppressing a little smile….

            ————-

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The limits of old BMWs were never all that high. They had softish suspensions and narrow tires. But they feel really good, so it is easy to get close to the limit. Of course the limits were MUCH higher than ye olde American land barge of 30+ years ago that needed casters on the door handles. Today, EVERYTHING, trucks included handles more like a BMW than like a land barge of old.

            Have you ever done any sort of track day? I think you would be majorly surprised at how much harder your Z4 will go around a corner than you ever drive it. A Raptor has fat tires and a big engine, so I would assume that since you are sane, the public road limit would be no different. But you were loafing and he was probably working at it a bit. On a track it would be a very different story. To some extent that excess capability is wasted on a public road, but it certainly gives you an added margin of safety for the unexpected. If a deer ran out you would possibly avoid it, while Mr. Raptor makes a very, very large hole in the roadside vegetation.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    And is declared profit, really all profit, depends on the accounting methods employed.

    Porsche and Mercedes have a huge racing budgets that probably aren’t accounted for in the profit and loss statements for their production vehicles. It still has to be paid for, hence one of the needs for big profits.

  • avatar
    fozone

    I don’t know how to write this without coming off like a crabby old man, so I won’t even try to hide my inner crustacean.

    I’m about Jack’s age, and first learned to drive on then-new domestic malaise crap. However, I also had access to the finer german machinery that this thread is focused on (my parents, my frends, and after a few years of driving, my own.)

    It saddens me that most younger folks will never experience what those Porsches or MBs from that time felt like when they were new.

    Hell, I wish there was a museum where folks could ‘check out’ — for a few minutes — a like-new 500E (for the youngsters — built by Porsche for MB, and IMO the greatest car ever built.)

    Or even something as pedestrian as a 944 Turbo. Just to get a sense of why they are superior cars, even though their specs are vastly inferior to what’s available today.

    Hell, I would love to see what a twenty-something would think of an unmolested late-80s Prelude with 4WS. Besides the shock that you can actually see out of the thing….

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’m your age as well. And got to drive all that stuff new too. And I happen to have a low-miles unmolested (other than by time to some extent) ’87 Porsche 924S (a 944 with narrow fenders) in my garage. The thing is a time capsule, sat in storage down South for more than 1/2 it’s life. You are smoking crack if you think it is built any better than anything German or anywhere else for that matter today. Certainly that $1500 every 40K miles timing belt and water pump service is something for Porsche to be quite proud of. As is the dash that turned into warped cardboard Freddy Kruger’d crap inside of ten years even up north. And the $500/pr motor mounts that last about the same amount of time as the timing belt, and all the other expensive dilemmas these cars are prone to. Like the wonderful oil-to-water oil cooler that likes to pop it’s seals and lube the bearings with coolant. Oh, and that fabulous rubber-center clutch. And the gearbox linkage that wears out in record time. And the paint that faded off in the sun. Fun car, but utter crap compared to even a Corolla today on any subjective basis. And a Corolla is about the only thing that it is faster than today. The Prelude would have been more reliable, but of course it also would have turned into a pile of iron oxide in ten years, and they felt like a cheap tin toy when they were new. At least the Porsche rusts a lot slower.

      The 500E IS a truly fabulous car. But er, what did they cost new back in the day, exactly? Oh yeah, a small house in a good suburb. For a car that is kind of slow by modern standards, didn’t handle all that well by modern standards, also a bit unsafe (though certainly the best car of the time), drank a ton of gas, cost the Earth to maintain, and still fell to bits faster than a modern anything if even a tiny bit neglected.

      I do agree you can see out of them though. I miss that aspect of old cars terribly. Of course the old German A/C in the 924S is BARELY able to keep up with the sun load of all that glass here in Maine, I imagine it was a bit toasty in FL.

      So again, the good old days – not really that good. They make fun toys though. Love my little deathtrap of a Triumph Spitfire to pieces. It’s reliable too, for the 1000 miles of sunny days a year I drive it. Talk about visibility, it’s almost like sitting on the ground with nothing around you! About the same effect if you get in a crash too.

      • 0 avatar
        fozone

        My experience was somewhat different. My 944 was purchased new and driven for a bit over a decade before the transmission (and my wallet) gave way. It was a daily driver and in no way babied — it sat outside in the NE winters for many years.

        The interior was perfect until the day it was sold. I think the big difference is that the 924 suffered with the 1970s VW parts-bin interior all the way through its run. But in 1986 Porsche totally gutted the 944s interior and updated it with better materials, better carpets/soft touch spots, and a more modern look. At the prices they were charging, they really had to — mine was in the mid-$30k range IIRC.

        Beyond the interiors and the fender flares, The mechanicals between the two cars (the 924 and 8-valve version of the 944) were indeed nearly identical. So much so that the 924 was actually faster in a straight-line, because it was narrower and more aerodynamic.

        As a daily driver, I ran into all the common stuff that you mentioned. The service intervals were definitely much shorter than on more modern cars. The timing belt was a pain in the ass to change (as I recall, you even needed a ‘special’ tool that for a long while only the dealers or specialty ‘tuners’ had….)

        The motor mounts were probably the weakest spot on the car, and as far as I could tell, Porsche never did a clean-sheet redesign on them over the model run. They should have.

        The final weakness — and one that you will likely run into if you haven’t yet — is that after a decade or so, the rubber bits start to wear out. So you may start finding leaks where you never thought they were possible (like rivers flowing into the tail lights.)

        But overall, if it weren’t for the short service interval and the aforementioned motor mount stupidity, I can honestly say that my 944 was extremely reliable. It never left me stranded or even a bit concerned, even as it got up there in years. Which for any era — malaise or modern — is commendable.

        And to its very last day, the body was impossibly solid. Not a spec of rust on it, anywhere. I have no idea how Porsche did it, or what sort of pixie dust they dipped it in before painting. I still frequently see 944s (even in the rust belt) with pristine bodies. I suspect mine is still out there, as long as the (likely 4th or 5th owner by now) can afford the parts.

        As for the 500E and the entire W124 family, one only has to look at their ‘modern’ replacement — the W210, which ran until 2003 — and it becomes clear just how far superior the plder cars were. But you are right — it comes down to price, and MB was trying to deflate the cost bubble as fast as they could, wherever they could. I still think the automotive world is a poorer place for it.

  • avatar

    > So again, the good old days – not really that good.

    Those who reminisce tend to ignore the significant amount learned in auto engineering since then, not the least of which are computers to design rigid and survivable unibodies and vastly more efficient engines: the very basic stuff of a car.

    Those who reminisce specifically about the water-cooled 911s of yore forget that it was a many decades old design no other company could’ve gotten away with selling nevermind for 60k+. The newer boxster-based ones might have the underpinnings of a cheaper car, but at least it’s not a dinosaur masquerading as a cheetah.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    The ‘good old days’ cars don’t look so good because of how good today’s cars are. We have been spoiled by how good they are, and, what a bargain most of them are.

    My 96′ 328is with all options was just over $41,000. A new 4-series 435i with similar options, is about $50,000+ and it has much more standard content and performance with its turbo engine.

    With greater content and 16 years of inflation, not as bad as one might think, except for those trapped in deflating wage, jobs.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    Reg; ” the difference in handling advantages of BMW are now diminishing relative to other vehicles — even good pickup trucks!”

    Comparing any vehicle performance to another on surface streets or any off track situation is pointless, due to several factors, some already expressed. First of, is the willingness to press the issue by the contestants, maybe they have passengers or other considerations. The second, is the individual driver skills involved. The third, is the unknown or unfamiliarity with the road and the potential for immediate situations not easily dealt with at speed, your not on a familiar track. The fourth, some times you have to protect your driving record and pocket book.

    All of the above considerations, are left in the paddock when on the track.

    Put a good driver in the Raptor on a track and post some times, and then put him in the BMW and compare times. There will be a difference, probably significant.

    A good 9/10ths performance capable driver, is going to be a threat in a non-competitive situation driving almost anything. I used to… lie, still like to catch somebody in a performance car on a twisty road while driving in a vehicle of less capability and push them and see if they want to play. Don’t get that opportunity these days, as everything I drive, but my big truck and motorhome, is quite capable in the corners.

    When I used to do fun runs into the mountains for hiking or rock hounding, in my American motors Hornet ‘Sportabout’ with the ‘X’ and Rallye package, or my Chevy LUV 4×4 pickup or 4×4 Suburban, I would often have the opportunity to engage in a little spirited competition with the occasional BMW or Mustang, etc. Most of the time, I could climb their bumper in the curves, but I never once thought the Sportabout, LUV, or Suburban had the real means to actually be competitive in a competition on the track with the really capable cars that were engaged. It is just that most people can’t utilize the capabilities of their vehicle or are not willing to push the limits on the street. If I saw someone who was pushing beyond their capabilities, crossing the center line, I backed off.

    Now days when in the twisties in my girlie Miata, and some kid climbs my bumper in his noisy FWD banger car, I just down shift a gear or three and let them watch me fade from their sight. Most don’t engage again, as one embarrassment is usually enough to cool their jets.


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