By on January 23, 2015

bambam

Twenty years ago, BMW was the coolest automaker in the world. I know this because I – as a young lad of less than ten, growing up in the 1990s – desperately wanted my father to purchase a BMW. And he – as a rational, middle-aged man in his 40s – ended up in a Camry with cloth seats and a tape player. He wasn’t the BMW type. He wasn’t cool enough. Back then, few were.

Remember the BMW of yore? The sharknose 6 Series. That late-1990s 7 Series (E38) that looked like the kind of thing the devil would drive, if he was late to a board meeting in Hell. The beautiful mid-1990s 5 Series (E34), and the perfect late-1990s 5 Series (E39) that followed it. The Z8. The Z3, which – although it hasn’t aged well – came out to universal acclaim in the mid-90s, and made its way into a Bond movie soon after. And then there was the 3 Series: the E30. The E36. The E46. The brand’s bread-and-butter, perfectly executed, perfectly sized, perfect to drive.

Little did we know, it was the brand’s all-time peak.

Twenty years later, here we are: the BMW of now. Gran Coupes. Gran Turismos. xDrive35i. Sports activity vehicles. iDrive. And a front-wheel drive electric car with a trim level called Giga World. I swear that if a meeting ever took place between the two BMW eras, 1990s BMW would punch 2010s BMW in the face and give it a wedgie while it was lying on the ground.

Things have gotten so bad that there’s kind of a running understanding among modern car enthusiasts that BMW has turned to crap. It’s like when you’re on a boat, and you’re rapidly taking on water. Nobody says you’re taking on water, but it’s plain to see: there you are, in the middle of the ocean, with minnows swimming around your ankles.

Essentially, the problems are as follows: the cars are bloated. The segments make no sense. The names are bizarre. And what the hell is the 2 Series Active Sports Tourer? Is that a joke? Are we supposed to pretend that thing simply doesn’t exist?

So my question today is: what the hell happened? Where did BMW go wrong? When did the once almighty BMW, the ambassador of cool, the diplomat of debonair (eh? EH?!), finally go off into the deep end and lose the plot? I’ll give you my theory – and below, you can submit yours.

My theory: it wasn’t a car that caused BMW to lose it. It was an all-out, no-holds-barred sales-chasing mentality; the kind of mentality Chrysler has with the rental fleets. I think it was this strategy – and not the vehicles themselves – that led to the decline of BMW. Essentially, it was the moment the automaker went from “How can we make this car cooler?” to “Why don’t we have a vehicle in the all-wheel drive rhombus segment?”

Of course, the “sell everything” mentality dramatically affected the products. Out went the careful styling decisions and the restrained lineup; in came segment-busting products and low-payment lease deals. The 3 Series grew huge. The X1 came into existence. And the 5 Series went from “desirable and stealthy” to “enormous and anonymous.”

But in my opinion, none of that would’ve happened if BMW had remained happy with the status quo: build cool cars, and sell a lot of them. Not tons of them, mind you. Not zillions. Not eleven crossovers and twelve variants of the 3 Series. But enough cars to generate a big profit while retaining the “cool guy” image.

So, what say you? Where do you think BMW took a wrong turn?

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359 Comments on “QOTD: When Did BMW Lose Its Edge?...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The E65 7-Series, though we didn’t know it yet. That car was the best S-Class BMW ever built, but you could write it off because it was consigned to luxo-sled duty. You could forgive the X-5 because that was BMW trying something new, but the 7-Series’ change was a warning.

    But the dye was cast; BMW was gunning for Mercedes.

    The wakeup call was the E60 5-Series. It’s a good car, but it was a successor to E-Class, not the prior E39. At that point, we all just _knew_ what the next 3-Series was going to be like, and what the future held.

    I suppose it’s kind of become comical sense then; we have all sorts of series and sub-models and such, but it really all comes back to the E65 and BMW’s decision to chase Mercedes. And I don’t think you can blame them because it’s worked out really well.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      For me, BMW lost it’s edge when they stopped making normally aspirated in-line six cylinder engines. I’ve been a dedicated BMW guy since my first — 1973 3.0 CSi.

      Today’s small displacement turbo charged engines don’t cut it for me. Here in Denver, it’s impossible to find a new RWD manual transmission BMW sedan.

      MB lost me as well when they discontinued their normally aspirated V8 engines.

      Bring back normally aspirated engines, manual transmissions and RWD and I may continue to be a customer.

      As much as I hate to admit it, I’d take the 2015 Genesis V8 I test drove recently over the BMW 5 series or MB E Class.

      • 0 avatar
        carve

        You live in Denver. I live in Albuquerque. We’re both a mile high. Normally aspirated Engines lose 18% of their power up here…more when you take a drive up in the mountains, when you need it most. I welcome the turbos and the engine is my favorite part of my 335i.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “For me, BMW lost it’s edge when they stopped making normally aspirated in-line six cylinder engines. I’ve been a dedicated BMW guy since my first — 1973 3.0 CSi.

        They don’t make an NA I6 any more? At all? Wow…

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Yep, the old 128i and base X1 were the last.

          • 0 avatar
            bk_moto

            That’s really sad. I agree that’s kind of the death of the brand (or the soul of the brand rather). The inline 6 was BMW’s signature, its bread and butter. Everybody has a 2.0 turbo four. That’s fine for my GTI but when you buy a BMW you’re paying for that smooth buttery six. If you don’t have that, then why bother?

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            I thought the M235 was a naturally aspirated, but apparently not.

            I could live with an M235, if someone forced me to.

          • 0 avatar
            bmrfan

            You do not know what you are talking about. The BMW Z4 35i is a naturally aspirated 3.0 I6 – the N52, one of the finest engines BMW has ever produced.

      • 0 avatar
        Forty2

        N/A engines are going the way of pushrods. And why on earth would you NOT want a turbo at your altitude?

        I am driving a 2014 BMW 335i. With RWD and a manual transmission. Yes they are very hard to find; I placed a factory order and waited six weeks, but I got the exact car I wanted.

        Pretty sure all BMW I-4 and I-6 engines are turbocharged. The prior 335i had twin turbos; replaced w/a single twin-scroll in current F series. So you can still get an I-6.

      • 0 avatar
        bomberpete

        “Bring back normally aspirated engines, manual transmissions and RWD and I may continue to be a customer.”

        Yet somehow amid all the high-fiving in Munich and Bergen County NJ at their 2014 sales success, I don’t get the sense that BMW is going to listen to you.

        While I haven’t read all 290 posts, but I’m sure someone pointed out that this isn’t a new phenomenon. In the Eighties enthusiasts complained that BMW got all yuppified and lost their way with underachievers like the 318i and 528e. Then when emissions and electronics technology plus market demand made a decent case for sportier models, BMW brought us the great models of the Nineties.

        I’m not sure what, if anything, will ever force a back to basics movement at BMW. To me, neither BWM or M-B are aspirational brands any longer. Of the premium Germans, only Audi seems to hold on to real driving characteristics. Even there, I wouldn’t dispute anyone who says Audi isn’t exactly “sporting” either.

        Terrific article, Mr. DeMuro.

    • 0 avatar
      st1100boy

      Ironically, BMW motorcycles have probably never been hipper and more relevant. Also, probably never more mechanically troublesome, but that’s another discussion.

      • 0 avatar
        motorrad

        which is why I’m keeping my 2004 R1150RS forever.

      • 0 avatar
        stevelovescars

        My 1996 R1100R was nothing but trouble, and BMW cars have never been the paragons of reliability and low cost of ownership.

        I truly loved driving my E39 525iT wagon with a manual transmission and sport suspension (another non -existant combo today). But, I sold it just before the warranty was over because I was terrified that my continuous service visits would continue after the warranty and I would have felt bad selling it to someone else outside of Warranry as well.

        I agree with the brand proliferation, naming issues, and sub-niche models. They had one of the clearest lineups and naming structure in the business. 2, 3, 5, 7 and X models similarly divided by size. Then the numbers stopped having any relation to engine displacement… Then a 3-series coupe became a 4-series… And coupes became 4-doors. I just stopped paying attention because I couldn’t be bothered.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          @Steveslovescars

          BMW engine displacement stopped having more than occasional relationship to the model number when the e21 320i got a 1.8l motor in the early ’80s. The only consistency has been that a bigger number equals more power for almost 40 years now.

          The 3 series was an aberration in having both 2dr and 4dr versions under the same model – see 5&6 series and 7&8 series.

          “Coupe” has nothing to do with the number of doors in the rest of the world. There are and have always been 4dr coupes, and there are also 2dr sedans. The 2dr e30 is a sedan, and the 4dr 4-series GC is a coupe. It’s just a name, they could call them the Tom, Dick, and Harry, for all I care.

          I do agree that BMWs have never been particularly cheap to run. You get what you pay for. If you want cheap to run, buy a Toyota, but I don’t want to hear complaints about how boring it is to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      E65 and X5 are good (and common) ones to cite to but problems began long before that.

      The E36 3-series was a harbinger of things to come. While it was an overall great car (particularly in M3 form), time uncovered a lot of cost-cutting. Shock mounts that wore out almost immediately, rear sub-frames which tended to separate and pretty much leave you with a 3,300 pound paperweight, and plastic water pump impellers that would fail and destroy your motor with little warning. Unlike E30s, you don’t see these around in large numbers with 250k + miles on them. They weren’t built to last like their predecessors were. This showed BMW was looking more at profitability than building no-expense spared driving machines like before.

      BMW really left the ground to begin its ascent over the shark when it succumbed to the SUV craze and gave us the X5 in 2000. That ran counter to everything BMW stood for and I remember Bimmerphiles being pretty angry about it at the time. The Bangled E65 signified that they were firmly in the air over said shark.

      I personally came to the realization that driving enthusiasts were really in trouble when, in 2004, I was looking to test drive a new 325i. The salesman looked at me like I had 6 heads when I asked to drive one with a manual and the sport package and said they didn’t have one in all their stock and would have to special order it from Germany. They didn’t even have a single manual.

      That provided a definite snapshot into who was buying BMWs, and the average customer impacts what products we’re going to see certified and sold in the U.S. It was only natural that everything they’ve introduced since then has progressively blended more and more in with the general automotive landscape.

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        My son’s 3-series was horrible: bad radiators, dead window regulators, cheap electrics- a shock, after owning an old school, 1968 BMW 2002!

      • 0 avatar
        BrunoT

        I don’t get why you and the columnist think that adding a SUV to the lineup is what made the sedans and coupes worse. Yes, they softened up the cars, but that’s a decision made independent of selling crossovers. The 3 and 5 got softer and number because they decided they would sell more of them, not because they offer crossovers. BMW’s mistake was in not offering old style BMW performance versions AND soft detached ones. It’s a suspension and steering tuning issue, not something requiring massive changes in design.

        Yes, the proliferation of models hurts BMW as it sucks engineering assets and raises per-unit prices. But selling one or two crossovers is not the problem.

        • 0 avatar
          cdmoore1972

          Gotta agree with that. If they still made anything as interesting and pure as the E30 (or 2002, or M1, etc), I wouldn’t care what else they did. My issue is that they went ALL in on big, ugly, complicated, and boring cars that chased big margins. They don’t make a single car that seems honest anymore. I want my Ultimate Driving Machine back.

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      I don’t think BMW was gunning for Mercedes. I think they were both taken aback by the success of Lexus in the early 90s and realized that Lexus’ value proposition was resonating more with buyers than the traditional “German Sport” or “German Luxury” that BMW and Mercedes had respectively traded on in the previous decades. Remember that Mercedes became a shadow of its former self during this same time period. While Mercedes chased profit by making the worst cars in their history and falling back on reputation, BMW chased Lexus. Mercedes recognized the error of their ways and (CLA/GLA aside) have righted their ship, but BMW is still trying to beat Lexus and failing. The F30 is clear evidence that they’re not even trying to make sports sedans anymore – my W221 has more steering feel. The new M3 has EPS and manufactures engine sound with the stereo speakers. It’s just a fast Lexus chaser.

      • 0 avatar
        deanst

        America is the only country where Lexus is remotely relevant, so I doubt this is the reason.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The US is a critical market for the German luxury makers. Lexus’ early success in the US certainly did motivate the Germans to respond.

          Thanks in part to Lexus, the Germans sped up their model cycles and added more tech to their cars. That almost surely contributed to the failure of SAAB because it was too small to keep up.

          It’s not an either-or issue. Lexus clearly benchmarked the Germans, but the Germans also responded to the threat. Since the Germans could not beat Lexus on reliability, they focused on what they could do (pushing their prestige and their leasing programs.) It wouldn’t be surprising if it contributed to Bangle’s career at BMW as the company turned to bolder styling as another way to compete.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            SAAB was killed off by GM, as well as a host of it’s divisions.Volvo is growing, so it will be interesting to see if the how far it expands

      • 0 avatar

        No way did BMW try to chase Lexus. If anything, Lexus has been trying hard to become the Japanese BMW as they chase a younger demographic. While both Mercedes and BMW were put on notice when Lexus (and to a lesser extent, Infiniti) launched in 1989, that they could no longer take the luxury market for granted, it was more about value and quality rather than the particular Lexus product. Mercedes felt the heat more than BMW back then, as the LS was a virtual copy of the S-Class, just $20K less and frankly a lot more reliable and “nicer” to drive in the luxury idiom. BMW still had the sporting end of the market well in hand, I doubt many people with one foot in a 5-series suddenly jumped ship for an ES 300.

        • 0 avatar
          smartascii

          Actually, I think what BMW realized is that many of its 5-series buyers were just as happy with an ES 300, that most of them didn’t know or care which wheels drove the car, and that they preferred the Lexus’ “better ride.” Many of BMW’s customers buy BMWs because they think it makes them look good, and if Lexus can sell them that feeling in a more comfortable and more reliable package, they’ll take it.

          • 0 avatar

            If a significant number of 5 Series buyers suddenly preferred a dolled up Camry with leather and more sound insulation, I’d be very surprised. RWD is vastly superior to FWD when it comes to sports sedans, and most people spending 5 series kind of money understand that there is a difference.

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            Wow ssmartascii. Your point proven! “Vastly superior”, and “spending money” = understanding all wrapped up with a bow. Brand whores almost never understand who they are.

        • 0 avatar
          smartascii

          Since the system won’t let me reply below, for whatever reason, I’ll reply here. If 5-series buyers wanted a sports sedan, BMW would be selling them one. No one who has driven an E39 (or even an E60) back-to-back with an F10 would realistically conclude that they are cars made for the same customer. Ignoring the fact that the interior materials are obviously of lower quality and that the base engine is a 4-banger, the F10 drives like a large, heavy, plush cruiser, and while it will accelerate and corner hard if you option it right and demand that it do, it doesn’t ever act like it *wants* to. It’s not a willing playmate; it’s just a reluctant accomplice.

          • 0 avatar
            BrunoT

            If one really wants soft and cushy, there are better cheaper more reliable versions of that style car for sale elsewhere. But some people want that and the mystique of performance left over from previous year BMWs.

    • 0 avatar
      jboehl

      This is far from accurate! BMW has as much edge as it always has! What has changed is society and the economy! The EPA is all over the place with mpg regulations and NHTSA with safety regulations! This review is garbage. The year 1985 was a different place with different people with different priorities. BMWs are for the drivers of today as they always have been.

      PS: the i3 is the only REAR WHEEL DRIVE electric car…you’re welcome.

    • 0 avatar
      ct06033

      I dont think this is soley bmws problem. All the german brands have sacrificed quality and the pursuit of beautiful driving machines in the pursuit of sales.

      I think audi is the next to lose its luster. The interior of the a3 is just as bad as the 2 series. I feel like its a ford with an audi badge. The state of cars today is just sad..

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Where do you think BMW took a wrong turn?”

    When they found out they were a status symbol more then the a maker of enthusiast’s automobiles and decided to chase the badge whores instead of the car guys, I guess around 2003, 2004 after the E39

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Agree 100%.

      Even at their ‘peak’ Bimmers were not the most reliable, were expensive to maintain and in Canada with their rear wheel drive were almost undriveable in the winter. It was almost comical to count the number of BMW’s that had spun out into ditches, snowbanks, medians or that were unable to climb minor grades during winter weather.

      So no tears shed for a brand whose reputation far outweighed its actual practicality.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      When they started cutting back on the performance after surveys showed that some potential customers hesitated to consider BMW because of its performance image.

    • 0 avatar
      rickentropic

      +1…I got out when my excellent mechanic took my 71 1600 in for routine maintenance/repairs in 76 at 65K mi. (his first BMW) and said they were screwing him (& therefore me) on parts prices compared to other German makers. As they bought in to their advertising I said Sayonara (SP?)

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Yes, and not only that they were a status symbol, but that buyers didn’t need much more than the roundel on the hood in order to justify a Bimmer. Once started down that path to greater profits, it became inevitable that they would need to have a product for every conceivable niche in order to maximize sales of the roundel, reputation be damned.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      Spot-on. That’s EXACTLY what happened and when.

      I cling to my E46 ZHP coupe and Z4 M Coupe and see NOTHING currently selling that does a thing for me. The closest would be the M235i, which is kinda like a modern ZHP, but jeez, the thing is the “junior” car in th lineup, and easily crests $50k with just a few options?

      My next car, in place of one of the current pair, will likely be an E39 M5. But which one to replace? Tough decision, as I don’t want to get rid of either, and NFW I’m going to own 3 cars. Decisions, decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      jbltg

      Yes, yes, yes 100 effing percent! I throw up in BMW’s general direction for selling out so very badly in order to market to db’s who have no appreciation of the machinery that once was. Glad I owned a used 2002 coupe back in the mid 80’s, and that will be the last one, and never a new one!

      • 0 avatar
        Forty2

        Well, without the roundel-chasing DBabgs, BMW would have been another SAAB, if they had even lasted that long. Those fleets of lease-special 320/328/528 bring in the bucks. SAAB and to a lesser extent Volvo were never able to attract the types who chase a badge for one reason or another. SABB died, Volvo nearly did.

        Look, if you have the chance to drive a current 2/3/4/5 series with the I-6 turbo (and I hate their proliferation of model lines and random inconsistencies, like why is there a 4-series 4-door?) even with an automatic, do it. Or better, an M3/M4. You don’t get to bitch otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Still BMW, Mercedes and now Audi duke it our globally for top honours. Japanese brands not really there, US Cadillac and Lincoln have to question their existence on poor profits and sales

    • 0 avatar

      what he said.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Is that you in the picture? Cause that’s not what I imagined you looked like at all.

    You also answered your own question – it was the sales chasing.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    The easy answer is the original X5. If they were stubborn and German, they would’ve just continued to build 5-series Tourings, and decide that those were perfectly adequate. But, they saw there was market in building a hideous crossover that doesn’t age exceptionally well, and ran with it.

    Going back even further though, the eta engine was the first step in building cars that may not have suited their ethos, but worked for a particular market.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I was going to say the X5 as well. Once they realized how much profit they were making off of that turd, there was no going back. It turns out that leasing cars to d-bags is a much better business than selling cars to enthusiasts.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I don’t categorically disagree, but I’m not entirely sure the X5 was it. I do agree that was the right timeframe. The X5 was something new and different from the market. I will tell you I owned one and loved it. It drove fantastic, handled well and was very comfortable. I liked it so much I owned it 7 years and it was a tank. Nothing ever went wrong with that car. Hard to fault a company for trying new things.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Eh, I’d put “something new and different from the market” as a bit of a stretch, following the Benz ML (which aged even worse) and the Lexus RX by a couple years. Yes, the X5 absolutely drove better, but it wasn’t an extreme change, as the market was already starting to move in a more car-like direction. There was no risk taken, no innovation, there was just a popular segment they weren’t in, and even if it didn’t entirely meld with their ethos, they were going to build something that fit that so they could rake in all the dollars. I’d even wager someone’s head rolled in Munich, for the ML320 being a runaway success, and BMW not getting there sooner. To their credit, they didn’t make it entirely irredeemable – they made something that drove like a BMW still, or as much as one would with extraneous ground clearance.

        But, it was obvious who they wanted to be their client. There was an old ad for the 2002 with the tagline, “In Germany they say Bey Em Vay. And they get out of the way.” Sort of goofy, but it got a point across. I still feel compelled to get out of the way of X5 (and other modern BMW drivers), but in an entirely different sense, for entirely different reasons. That’s not cool. Good business, but not cool.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      They have continued to build 5-series Tourings, and they sell very well in markets where people still buy station wagons.

    • 0 avatar

      As much as I despise SUVs in general, I have to admit any major automaker today would be suicidal not to offer a complete range of these top heavy suburban war wagons. They are extremely profitable, and those profits allow them to continue making low volume, lower profit halo cars we love like the M3/M4/M5. If Porsche can sell a Cayenne, then surely BMW can sell an X5, X6 etc. What do I care if some upscale suburban housewife wants to bounce over the median strip in her X5, Starbucks in one hand, cellphone in the other? She will look silly, but I can appreciate that the M6 Gran Coupe is available, not that I will ever be able to afford one. And yes, I do like the Gran Coupe. The name is dumb (sounds like they hired some refugees from Pontiac’s marketing department) but come on, that thing is a rolling work of art. As they have finally de-Bangleized most of the lineup, I think the styling is getting better as of late. Still a bit fussy and overwrought, but that seems to be the trend overall.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    BMW is analogous to Tupperware by Rubbermaid – just before their Ohio factory was stripped of tooling equipment & machinery because Wal-Mart could indirectly get a Chinese company to buy that same equipment at Rubbermaid’s bankruptcy liquidation and ship it to their Chinese facility overseas so Wal-Mart can sell the 40 gallon trash barrel for the $14.99 retail it had insisted on (when Rubbermaid had said it would lose money even selling to Wal-Mart at anything under $15 wholesale).

    Cadillac is like the cheaper Rubbermaid competitor that sells on Alibaba in minimum lots of one gross (144 pieces) and is difficult to order because 1/2 the webpage is in Mandarin characters.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Sports Activity Vehicles… ’nuff said.

    However the 1 Series M and Z4 Coupe show they can still be cool when they want to.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I agree. There are still bright spots, especially the 1 series M and maybe even the new M235. I think there is promise (at least I hope) with the upcoming M2.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnnyFirebird

      The last gen 1 series coupe was a basic, tight little sport sedan that drove really well. I preferred the more Quebec friendly 128i without the sport suspension, but with a stick shift, and you could get those with a nice convertible top… not super practical but really fun.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      The “real” Z4 Coupe (E86) was last built in ’08. The current Z4 is that convertible hardtop hairdresser touring tub of lard with a name that barely fits on its fender.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    I think it was when they replaced the E90 3 series with the F30/31. I own a 09 335d and in a lot of ways it is the most amazing car Ive ever owned. What else will corner like its on rails, go 0-60 in 5 seconds, and can cruise at 100 while delivering 30 mpg? None that I know of.

    • 0 avatar
      joeveto3

      I agree with you. It was the move to the F series.

      I don’t blame the introduction of the X series because BMW had to do that to stay alive. And frankly,if I can find a stick shift X3 in red, with tan leather (a lot have vinyl – another sin) it will be in my driveway.

      I don’t blame Bangle because he merely hurt the style, and the damage was temporary (and copied).

      I don’t blame the turbos of the E90, because even though the turbos in my 335 rattled like crazy, and even though I chased an occasional full-throttle stumble, an even though it was complex and expensive (because BMW – f’n Kia could probably make it more reliable and warranty it for 100K), it was the nicest, most balanced,and flat out intoxicating engine, and vehicle for that matter, that I’m likely to ever own.

      I had to get rid of the 335, because I’d either go broke trying to keep it on the road, go to jail because I acted like a complete d-bag while driving it, or die while thoroughly enjoying acting like a complete d-bag while driving it.

      Moving to turbo 4’s and EPS that is devoid of the beautiful feedback found in their traditional hydraulic steering IS what’s killing the brand for me. I understand it’s fuel economy regulations that are forcing this.

      So…ok keep the 4cyl turbos. Heck keep the EPS. But for crying out loud, you are B-M-Freaking-W. Be the one manufacturer who sweats the details and coughs up an EPS system that is worthy of a BMW.

      I don’t care if BMW has to cater to the badge chasers to stay alive. Offer the electronic gizmos so they can stay relevant to the masses and stay in business. I get it. But don’t abandon those who brought you to the dance, or your Brand.

      Be BMW.

      I don’t see all hope lost. I want to drive a 320, manual, rwd, and a 2 Series, same spec. I want to see for myself if some of the magic is still there. If so, I may pull the trigger. But from what I’ve read the, the steering is EPS generic. And if so, I’m not interested.

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        LOL it is kind of hard to stay out of trouble in a 335d. It will pull so hard from 50 to 130 its almost shocking. The fun part is that it does it so effortlessly…..no crazy screaming sounds or high rpms. It is almost like the car is saying “you want to go fast…..no problem whats next?”

      • 0 avatar
        nuffsaid74

        I agree with posters who said the move to the F series, but I think there are two underlying trends that lead to this clear “line in the sand” between the old BMW “driving dynamics first” ethos and the new volume producer of expensive mediocrity:

        The combination of fuel standards with the chasing of raw power in response to American tastes for such. This is what lead inevitably to electronic steering racks and 4 banger turbo engines as the default 3 series configuration(and the only available in terms of the steering). The magic of the NA I6 e90 and e46 is that they were way more fun to drive DESPITE being down on power compared to many competitors…think about that. they weren’t fast cars, they were quick cars that handled magically compared to anything else that wasn’t exotic.

        By way of identification:

        I am one of the e90 volume 328i customers many of you here like to call d bags. BTW, I think many here do a disservice by polarizing BMW buyers into two classes, either “true enthusiast or “d-bag”. There was a volume class of buyer who was much less concerned with status than driving dynamics, but who to many here would still be considered a corporate d-bag because they travel for business and wear a suit. I am this buyer. I also am that guy who loved his 2009 328i but HATED getting into a service loaner F series 3, with vague steering and fake engine noise. Every time that happened I couldn’t wait to get my e90 back. When my 328i hit 105000 miles(still running great with no real issues beyond standard maintenance, thank you) , I traded it on an 2014 Audi A6 TDI after test driving BMW, Audi, Mercedes and even gave Acura a shot.

        My logic was: If BMW wants 50k for a four banger with vague steering and only “near luxury” interior, I may as well go 60k for a much nicer interior and 600 mile range in the Audi TDI, and 400+ pounds of torque is nice also. I still miss the way the e90 handled big time, but in 2014 there wasn’t anything on the new market that really hit it for me purely on driving dynamics that was also practical for work. Since this car is a tool for business travel first, and fun to drive second, I went with the Audi.

        Since BMW made the F series 328i not-so-much fun to drive(trust me, its not), they lost my business for a better overall product for my needs.

        Audi’s recent sales surge is I believe in part due to an exodus of BMW drivers who didn’t feel the new BMW’s offered them a “next step” from their Bangle era 3 or 5 series, and who jumped to an s4 or A6 as a better overall product, priced more reasonably to its value. The drop off in performance was too steep, and luxury wise BMW was always a step down vs. Audi or Mercedes.

        So, long story short, YES, even the non-purist, non-enthusiast buyer(by this sites’ standards) noticed a huge difference from the E to F series, the difference is palpable and real, and many of us voted with our dollars. Having said all that, there must be a new class of less-discerning buyer who only care about the badge, as you say, OR who never drove an E90 or E46 to compare the difference.

        Doug D: I loved your review of the Alpha Romeo Giulia Quad, and will probably look that way when Audi buys back my TDI…reliability concerns notwithstanding, THAT is the closer to the car I really want, and it seems to pick up on the “dynamics first, luxury second” ethos that has been missing for some time in the euro saloon market.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The answer to your question unfortunately is: They didn’t.

    My dad had a 70s white 3.0 coupe, my mum drove an orange 1800 and I thought they were the coolest cars ever. So was my uncle’s E30 coupe. At the time the fun and cool strategy worked great for BMW as they were making a name for themselves and didn’t want to go head to head with Mercedes on outright luxury. However, as the brand’s appeal grew they realized that car enthusiasts represent only a small part of potential market. So they decided to leverage their brand and offer non-sport, un-cool products for non-enthusiasts. They went directly for the Mercedes jugular and the results were spectacular: Growth and profitability.

    BMW responsibility is to their shareholders – in particular to the Quandt family that saved them in the 70s. They were unhappy about the disastrous acquisition of Rover and wanted to push them in a more profitable direction.

    For those who want an old school BMW, pass on the X6 sDrive Diesel and go straight to the 228 or 235. They are better than any E30, E36 or E46 that ever existed.

    • 0 avatar
      John R

      This

    • 0 avatar
      Trauto

      Rolex, Audemars, Porsche, Leica: Where might these enterprises be today if their offerings were all air-cooled, 35mm film gauge — with steel bezels no less?

      A dose of sodium chloride, please.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Agreed. BMW simply offers more choice now. The sport packages, M cars, and the small, sporty coupe are all still there.

      They even brought back hatchbacks with the 3 GT and 4 Gran Coupe. Why the ridiculous names? Well you can’t expect them to call it a hatchback after the disaster with the E36, can you? Call it something so dumb nobody will care what it is classified as, and they will focus on the car.

      Instead of rapidly taking on water, I think BMW is rapidly taking on money.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @Carguy

      Thank-you. We live in a golden age and all people around here want to do is whine.

      People here are saying the EXACT SAME THINGS people have been saying about BMW since the e21 3-series replaced the 2002. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.

      And here is a reality check folks – if BMW had kept making only the range of cars they made in the 80’s and 90’s there would be no BMW, because they would have gone out of business a long, long time ago. Just like Porsche making SUVs and fat-cat sedans, the X-cars and “bloated too soft 3-series” are what pay the bills and allow BMW to make M-cars and 2-series. BMW has always made hard-edged cars and soft-edged cars. My Mother’s 528e was no more an “Ultimate Driving Machine” than a current 528i is, but the profits from both allowed the production of M3s.

      So please get over yourselves. If you don’t like what BMW is making, buy something else. That is what the overwhelming majority of you are doing anyway. And no, buying USED BMWs does not count.

      • 0 avatar
        PonchoIndian

        krhodes

        Dude, man, pal…lets get real here. If anyone needs to get over himeself (or at least not take himself so seriously) its you when the BMW subject comes up. It will be ok, just breath a little. The vast majority of car enthusiasts don’t agree with you but everything will be ok I promise.

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        I agree with both you and Carguy.

        “The last real Porsche/BMW/Ferrari was…” comes up a lot whenever new models come out, or existing lines get updated. I tend to point out “They’ve been saying that since…” When the E36 M3 came out, it was “heavy and bloated,” The E46 was “too big and numb” ad nauseum. We all know how the same conversation went about the 911 when it went water-cooled.

        BMW is a more noticeable than others due to their move in the 00s by giving Bangle artistic freedom on styling. I remember reading an interview or article where they said BMW needed to stand out against a sea of slab-sided cars and decided to let styling be a defining feature. I think they’ve succeeded in that, given how many cars now sport Bangle Butts, light piping in headlights and tail-lights, and an emphasis on design and styling.

        Modern manufacturing lets car companies produce many variations at minimal cost. Much like the menu at the Cheesecake Factory, they want to offer something for everyone: Everything from the weird electric car, to a gas-guzzling V8 touring thing.

        There’s even a concession to enthusiasts: The 228i can be bought with nothing but a 6MT and Sport Package. Stripped down and simple, and compared to the E30 318is (Which cost the same when you adjust for inflation), far more car, and far more modern.

      • 0 avatar

        krhodes1, I agree 100%. According to the buff books, BMW has been “jumping the shark” since the 320i. It makes good copy, people will be more inclined to read “controversial” stories and BMW sells the hell out of the new models anyway. Which ironically keeps them in business and gives them more cash to build halo models beloved by enthusiasts. Would BMW be alive if they never built the X5? Probably. But they might not have the resources to continue development of the M3. Now would Porsche be alive if they they never built the Cayenne? That is probably the more interesting and serious thought that all car enthusiasts should consider.

    • 0 avatar
      F_Porsche

      Quandt was the name I was looking for here and I didn’t have to look very long. Great comment!

      Companies rarely do things out of their own will but because they are driven to do so. Be it money, governments, changing markets etc. I haven’t driven any newer BMWs since the E61 but that should change soon. And apart from some questionable interior bits I rather enjoy looking at them!

      So back to the drawing board DeMuro! One would think having worked for Porsche you would know about the differences of how a company WANTS to develop and how it NEEDS to develop to make amends with all its stakeholders.

  • avatar
    bultaco

    The hideous, Bangle-butted 2002 7-series was the beginning of the end. It was the beginning of BMW becoming a lifestyle accessory and luxury car for fat people rather than a high quality enthusiast’s car. I recently drove a current 535i, and while it had a beautiful interior with lots of features, it was absolutely HUGE and drove like a fancier, much more tasteful Buick.

    I must say that BMW styling has improved since the bizarre, sea monster-esque monstrosities of the mid-late ’00s, but they lack the form-following-function beauty and simplicity of the ’80s and ’90s BMWs, all of which were great-looking cars.

    When I drive my 5-speed, E36 M3 convertible, it absolutely feels like the descendant of my previous E30 325i and my very-modified 2002 before that. With the exception of the E46 M3, it may very well be the pinnacle of BMWs time as an enthusiast car.

    The closest thing to what BMW used to be is Mazda, and they seem to offer manual gearboxes only on the lower-level models. And I do realize that very few people opt for manuals anymore, but that’s because most of them haven’t experienced one.

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree with you about Bangle. I think he’s an absolutely superb stylist, and that the Bangle 3 series and Zs were the best looking (I’m not talking about how they drove here, just looks). Other stylists have ruined cars with too many creases, curves, and other detail (think Pontiac). Bangle pulled it off beautifully. In the post-millennium world, where most personal vehicles are ugly, and a few are decent looking, his 3 series and Zs are genuinely good looking.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        I agree completely. I may not like all his designs, but Bangles input was definitely needed as they were starting to reach the end of how they could make a more and more sectioned and chopped 60’s Datsun/Corvair design, while still retaining a ‘practical’ passenger car. Bangle gave BMW a design renassance, sadly at the same time as time that they started building less inspiring cars with more focus on marketing and sales.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        Inevitable a large portion of these responses are going to throw the e65/66 7’s on the pyre, most of which will talk about the styling. Of course, these are going to come from people who could not (and can not) afford a new Executive sedan, so it’s so much whining and wind-pissing.

        Having owned a pair of 38’s and a 65 (after iDrive was sorted out,) I can say bluntly that if BMW had not gone radical with the 66, they would look a lot more like Cadillac of the same time period than anyone wants to admit.

        As for when they jumped the shark, I am comfortable shooting the 5 GT, but more so the ideology behind it and not the car itself. It is still, I believe, BMW’s Aztec moment. It’s hard to believe that the company that can make a 4-door that makes the old Quattroporte look plain (mmmm 6 GC) also makes truly awful niche lifestyle vehicles that struggle to sell beyond badge whores.

      • 0 avatar
        MK

        I’m sorry but if you think a bangle Z4 is better looking design than oh, lets say a 96 Z3 then there’s just nothing else to say. Enjoy that baby!

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      My thoughts exactly. Think about this for a moment: The predecessor 7 series, the E38, is STILL one of the best looking modern sedans made. Take a look at some of the pictures of the sport version of that car. Sit in one. It drives like a 3 series but is much bigger.

      BMW doesn’t build that type of car anymore. Their interiors are nicer, but they don’t drive as well as they used to.

    • 0 avatar
      Karl M

      The Bangle 7 series is a monstrosity. Its predecessor had a subtle and handsome exterior.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      When did BMW lose me? Easy answer–Chris Bangle. There is not one Bangle car I prefer to its predecessor. I’m at a point in my life where I should be seriously considering a new BMW but instead find myself more interested in their fifteen to twenty year old cars.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    The exact moment was when the M5 played engine sounds through the stereo.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    BMW lost their edge when they realized that buyers weren’t driving enthusiasts and more chasing after a status symbol.

    Also when owners realized how ripped-off they were paying outlandish maintenance costs and finding out BMW parts were cheaper-made and less durable than your average car.

    Not to forget the fact that so-called “enthusiasts” only buy used cars and can’t afford a pot to… well, you know.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Probably the best comment yet. BMW’s product planners will look over their glasses at you when you say they have lost their edge and respond that no matter how much enthusiasts whine, they are laughing all the way to the bank with their current lineup of vehicles.

      Heavily subsidized leases and lucrative CPO program for lease turn-ins also helps a great deal. It’s kind of brilliant, actually.

      • 0 avatar
        joeveto3

        BMW has ensured that the enthusiasts who are “too broke” to buy (LEASE cough, choke,) new are as important to their business model as their new car buyers (LEASE for $299/mo! cough, choke, wheeze).

        Because of that sweet old BMW engineering and subsequent reliability, combined with the “interesting” parts costs, and rectum exploding labor costs (should you not find “joy” in getting your hands dirty while earning your masters in Roundel repair), we broke ass enthusiasts are a HUGE profit center for BMW.

        Not only do we cough up the dough for window regulators, and control arms, and plastic water pump impellers, and panoramic sunroof regulators,and HID balasts, and HPFP’s and turbos by the gross, but our broke ass enthusiasm keeps the dream polished, running and alive.

        They say Harley makes more on t-shirts than on bikes.

        I would not be surprised to learn BMW makes more on repair parts and shop labor than they do their Leases.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      All of this.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      So, in the mid ’70s, with the E3 “Bavaria”, and then the L5 and L7?

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I agree with those who believe that once BMW discovered its brand power, product became secondary.

    That said – I don’t blame them for moving into SUVs and CUVs; That’s where the market was headed and BMW took advantage of that demand. Just because they’re building all these super-niche vehicles doesn’t make them bad – in many ways it means that manufacturing and design have become nimble and efficient enough that they can profitably test the waters in these segments. More power to them.

    The problem for BMW is that once their brand is perceived as “uncool” they’re going to have a hard time getting people to fall back on the product as the reason for buying them. Porsche is probably the eggregious price gouger on the planet, but at least the majority of their core product line is still damn good. BMW’s issue is that they need to run their factories at full tilt to remain profitable and to generate the cash necessary to invest in staying competitive.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    There was a market shift. People finally came to realize that they ultimately don’t care about how their car drives. BMW didn’t make an SUV at a time when everyone was switching to SUVs. So BMW reluctantly builds one and people buy the crap out of it. BMW thinks, “Hmm, that was easy, let’s try something else.” And, bam, now we have a full lineup of compromises and people love them.

    And, since I don’t comment on another site, I have to tell you that I nearly peed my pants when I saw that you are importing a car. I have been mulling that over and am starting to get serious about it. Your experience will likely be the ultimate determiner of whether or not I go through with it. I am genuinely excited about your upcoming stories and waiting with baited breath.

  • avatar

    When people living above their means got the repair bill.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Nit: i3 is very much real wheel drive. Having spent 3 days with one on an extended test drive, it really does drive quite nice for a tall, up high box.

    The reason I don’t have my order in: the regulation-derived 2.5g gas tank is a joke (one of two days, I couldn’t charge at work, and I don’t want to hit a gas station EVERY TIME I can’t get a charge-point at work), and at 2-3 kWh of solar-panels more than the next Volt, I wonder if its worth the premium.

    (Yes, when comparing primarily-electric-drive vehicle prices, I like to think in “how many additional kWh of solar cells can I put on my roof”)

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      It sounds like you’d be better served by either a Tesla or a diesel.

      • 0 avatar
        Nicholas Weaver

        Tesla is way too expensive, and the interior UI is an abomination unto god and man. I want F@#)(*# buttons for my climate control, damnit, not a big glowing touchscreen.

        Diesel is actually a bad deal for cars: Its popular in Europe because of taxes, not because of efficiency in terms of g/mile of CO2 or raw cost. In the US the greater cost of diesel is because its a more energy dense fuel.

        EG, the Jetta TDI is 280 g/mile CO2, while the hybrid is 200, thats a big difference in efficiency. So although the “MPG” is basically the same, the Hybrid is running on a signifcantly cheaper, less energy dense fuel, so the actual fuel cost/mile is significantly better.

        • 0 avatar
          darkwing

          UI aside — and I happen to agree with you there — doesn’t the price of a loaded i3 come within striking distance of a base Model S? (My experience cross-shopping, but not buying, BMWs suggests that buying anything other than a fully loaded model is folly.)

          I was thinking of diesel less for cost reasons and more for inexpensive torque. My assumption was that a nice amount of grunt off the line might make up for the conventional drivetrain.

          • 0 avatar
            Nicholas Weaver

            i3 in the trim I had was loaded:
            Range extender, tech gadgets (including all-the-way to 0 cruise control, nav, etc), list was $52K.

            Only not-option was it was the mid-trim leather/cloth interior which is BETTER than the top-trim leather-only interior, and no DC fastcharger (which would be silly w the range extender)

            As tested, it was almost $20K cheaper than a stripped Model S ($70K), and the stripped Model S is as bad as a stripped BMW: no Nav, cloth interior, no fast charger. A decent model S (bigger battery, fastcharger, lower grade leather, nav) is $90k!

  • avatar
    craiger

    I miss my E39 with the six and the sport package. I should have bought it after the lease instead of getting the miserable Z4.

    I don’t entirely agree with the E60 being a warning sign. I drove one not long after I turned in my E39 and the E60 wasn’t all that different. Sure, the styling was…not the same. iDrive was crap. But the bones of the car were pretty much the same as the E39 and it drove about the same.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Dropping the Isetta from the lineup was an obvious turning point. What a bunch of sellouts.

  • avatar
    hriehl1

    I think you need to clarify the criteria for the question.

    I do not know for sure, but can make an educated guess that all their financials are stronger now than 20 years ago. And that is the purpose of a business enterprise. They’ve simply expanded their market by extending their offerings.

    That some believe their products are now less desirable is a casualty of that strategy… but overall they’ve gained more buyers than they’ve lost.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    All good points in this article, but what it fails to mention is that the brand hasn’t gone wrong sales-wise.

    So…maybe the moral of the story is that it’s gone wrong for people who care about cars (versus people who care about bling), but right for everyone else.

    • 0 avatar
      bk_moto

      Yes, I think that was the implied premise of the question. When did BMW lose its edge (for enthusiasts)?

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        The same time any brand loses it’s ‘edge’ among enthusiasts, the moment it became popular. It doesn’t matter that you can still get an ‘ultimate driving machine’ BMW should you desire one. It only matters that the guy down street who knows nothing about cars just leased a 3 series.

        • 0 avatar

          Close. It is when the guy down the street, who had an e90, and it is replaced by an F30 lease, tells you “I liked the old one better” and “Its nice, but its not the same”- AND – he is a badge guy, stylish, but not an enthusiast driver in any sense…..

          He noticed the four vs. six. noticed the interior changes, and even mentions that the steering isn’t the same. A guy who does not know a skidpad from a skidmark.

          That is when the shark jumps.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      It’s somewhat a lead indicator of future problems. The brands fortunes are heavily dependent on buyers believing the brand and logo are worth a price premium. That desirability was built on superior driving feel and performance without too much harshness. Either they use the extra profitability from diluting the image to improve the value they offer and up where Toyota is, or they change paths, or they fail. Making meh cars and halo cars is ok, it’s not what built the brands desirability, but it works. The bigger problem is that the halo cars seem to many influential opinion setters to be loosing the touch that made them desirable. Who knows where it ends, but marking the inflection after it’s happened is one point of journalism.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Chasing sales volume and market share is what is ruining them. Same goes for Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      philipwitak

      re: “Chasing sales volume and market share is what is ruining them.”
      ttacgreg / January 23rd, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      chasing sales volume and market share makes more sense in terms of optimizing profit. and we all understand that chasing ‘the money’ is the purest business objective and heartly endorsed by corporate shareholders – whether we driving enthusiasts like it or not.

      • 0 avatar
        typ901

        Thomas Aquinas Murphy (December 10, 1915 – January 18, 2006) was former CEO of General Motors during the 1970s.

        He is credited with saying “General Motors is not in the business of making cars. It is in the business of making money.”

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        For Steve Jobs, BMW was a source of inspiration and a benchmark for craftsmanship. BMW was an example where a niche player can be successful and make lots of money, and that’s what he had in mind for Apple. He left it to the likes of Microsoft to take over the world with an average product, much like Toyota and VW dominate vehicle sales I suppose.

        I agree, the turning point to decline, for BMW or any company, is when it chases sales and volume and forgets how to make desirable products and services.

        • 0 avatar
          seth1065

          Yet I Think Mr Jobs Drove MB S classes with out a license plate IIRC

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            “Yet I Think Mr Jobs Drove MB S classes with out a license plate IIRC”

            True, I also recall.

            He was well acquainted with finely designed and crafted goods, including Mercedes, Porsche, Henckels knives, Ansel Adam prints, as well as BMW.

            As Walter Isaacson wrote beautifully in his biography of Mr Jobs, “Over time the atrium attracted even more toys, notably a Bosendorfer piano and a BMW motorcycle that Jobs felt would inspire obsession with lapidary craftsmanship.”

            Inspire obsession with lapidary craftsmanship — wow. Few companies aspire to that anymore.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I buy that Jobs found BMW inspirational, right down to the notion of building semi-pleasent products that dont hold up in the long run.

      • 0 avatar

        Let’s look at which automakers failed to chase sales volume and market share, at least in the US, if not globally.
        – Lotus
        – Saab
        – Mercury
        – Pontiac
        – Oldsmobile
        – Alfa Romeo
        – Peugot
        – Studebaker :)
        – Packard
        See a pattern?

  • avatar
    mwgillespie

    I seem to recall that the worry was the BMW wasn’t going to survive as an independent company if they didn’t change their approach. Ford was buying everybody (Aston, Volvo, JLR, etc.) and I think I remember seeing articles of the “Who’s going to buy BMW?” variety at the time.

    It was either get bought or get big – and big means chasing volume. So, 1999/2000 was the year.

    Those of you with better memories of models & product planning can see if that matches up with what we saw on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This. There was a lot of consolidation going on in the industry of the late 90’s. BMW had to lose some of it’s cachet as a somewhat exclusive and expensive brand in order to chase the borader market to stay afloat. In my opinion, they haven’t “lost their edge”, they just became more mass market as they wouldn’t have survived otherwise. To some this means they now drive the same brand as trophy wives in CUVs and they feel it hurts their image. The enthusiast cars are as competant as ever.

  • avatar
    Boff

    It has been a case of BMW evolving in the direction of the mainstream luxury market even as the mainstream luxury market chased BMW. BMW once had no real competition for upscale enthusiast-focused sedans and coupes. So both brand ho’s and the leather driving glove set bought them and BMW could name their price. Then Audi became reborn, Mercedes tried to get more sporty, the Acura TL, Lexus IS and Infiniti G were released, and even Cadillac started benchmarking them. BMW had no choice to respond in a way that ended up sacrificing purity for practicality. Ultimately, all the brands, BMW included, have converged to make generally reliable, good performing, stylish, roomy and tech-heavy offerings far removed from the elemental qualities held by, say, the E46 or E39.

    At least you can still get a stick shift in most of their car line-up.

  • avatar
    JohnnyFirebird

    I think they went from cool to mainstream right about when they figured out their lease-then-CPO sales model which made them relatively more affordable for mere peasants, therefore less exclusive, therefore having to be more pleasing to a general audience.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    I have a friend whose first nice car was a used e46. When he made some money he got a new 5 series. He knows nothing about cars. He does nat drive the 5 series from week to week. Without knowing automotive terms he says it steers and brakes terribly, feels soft and marshmellow, the interior is cheap. He still has the e46 at 160k miles drives it every day. This is MBA at atat, if he does not like BMW now then you know its bad.

    Another friend just got the 4 series coupe which I drove. To say the driver is isolated from the action is an understatement, its more video game feedback than car. The motor is also hardley a gem. Its a gizmo deluxe.

    I thought the origional x5 was great, maybe it was an SUV but it quality of motor and interior is superior to any suv built today.

    What BMW has done is foregone driving dynamics as a usp because they thought most drivers didnt know and wanted softer ride, they cheapened the ineteriors to korean levels for $$, made gravely engines with turbos and added a bunch of computer chip gizmos to fool the buyers. Mercdes btw is no different. Kinda like GM used to be.

    But buyers even non enthusiasts can tell. BMWS became a thing because they had cred from those who knew cars and othrs followed. Whoever tried one loved the way it steered and braked compared to other offerings, they also appreciated the quality and solidity, even if they knew nothign about cars.

    Its why mini first suceeded, here was smalll car with quality that drove great.

    In short the new ones are bloated, drive subpar, and have cheap interiros. besides badge why would you buy one, well the srvicing is still good, I guess thta counts for somethign, and the japanese after the first lexus dropped the ball..

    If you wnat a good drivign german car today with a nice motor audi is pretty much the only game in town, just dont have one out of warranty.

    Try an e46 and compare it to the new 3 series, its prettye asy to tell which one is the quality machine.

    BTW tried a cayenne and Macan, they are both Vws with zoomy exhausts.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I am far from a BMW fan boy, but I have to make the argument that until there is a car maker making significantly better sports sedans than BMW, BMW hasn’t gotten worse, the market has just shifted.

    IOW, BMW occupies the same space relative to other car makers, but the overall market has shifted away from more raw-edged cars to gadget-laden techno-wagons. There are some isolated cases where competitors have made inroads (ATS ride and handling, Lexus GS vs. the 5-series) but overall, if you want the best sports sedan, you still have to go to a BMW store to get it.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      I agree 100%. M235, M3, M4, M5, M6, X5M, Mini Cooper S, i8, z4s35. Bavarian MOTOR works still make the best gasoline and diesel engines in the world for performance and efficiency. What car brand makes more enthusiast models than BMW today? Audi? as always the mainstream models are just glorified VWs (or Skodas). Lexus? glorified Toyotas. MB? They have improved, but they still can’t do sporty luxury as their sport models tend to ride horribly. Mazda? some nice daily drivers, but their sporty reputation is largely based on the “hair-dresser Miata, and RX-7s from the 1980s. Subaru – I’m sorry but a few overstyled rally car replicas does not represent their rather boring lineup. Yes BMW makes some boring/ugly cars, and yes they do put more effort into attracting the non-enthusiast car buyer that represents the vast majority of the public, but they still get it done for the enthusiast at a far lower inflation adjusted price than the “glory days” 2002 (fender rust through in 4 years), E30 (criticized as over-priced and too conservative when it was new), E34 (criticized as over-priced and too small in the backseat when new), etc.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’d say it happened when the engineers lost control of the company.

  • avatar
    Evinx

    Automotive brands, unlike consumer brands (Nabisco Oreos) have to evolve because models need to replaced and the capital investment required is tremendous. BMW is not the only company to chase niches and spread platform capital investment over additional vehicles.

    I own a 2007 E92. It’s great. My father leased a BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo (hatchback fetish.) It was a bloated, mediocre, poor electric steering no-reason-to-exist whale. But no one forced him to lease it; he could have chosen a BMW more in line with the “Ultimate Driving Machine” ethos.

    Consider Volvo. Could they have survived on their safety and wagon niches? Notwithstanding how poorly they have handled their evolution, it was the right decision although hampered by terrible execution.

    I’m in my 40s now and my teenage son doesn’t look for the same thing in an automobile that I did as his age. Hopefully, he’ll have the gainful employment green to purchase/lease a car down the line. An Ultimate Driving Machine wouldn’t appeal to him or many of his friends. Things change. Car guys age prematurely; they’re fuddy-duddies by the time they hit their mid-30s. :)

  • avatar
    kmoney

    Would agree with the 2002 7 series being the end. I seem to remember reading somewhere that when those first bowed the price of 2001 E38’s actually went up slightly due to increased demand.

    It seems that BMW and Mercedes chased each-other and essentially switched positions. When I was a kid, I used to be a huge BMW fan and ignored Merc’s because they were just big luxo cruisers. Now I never even really bother to read reviews of new BMW’s and if I had to buy a German luxury sedan, would take an AMG product over BMW 100 percent of the time.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve long been more of a BMW fan, but I’m starting to like Mercedes-Benz a lot more. Especially with the AMGs—and even with the naturally-aspirated engines being phased out—Mercedes-Benz’ always seems to have some soul left in its cars, whereas newer Bimmers seem like they’re engineered to win car reviews and do little else…

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “Gran Coupes. Gran Turismos. xDrive35i. Sports activity vehicles. iDrive. And a front-wheel drive electric car with a trim level called Giga World”

    Brah, you just listed, like, all my favorite rides.

    BRAH!

  • avatar
    ldl20

    I generally agree with Doug’s thesis and the sentiments from the B&B (chasing volume, increased driver isolation, more focus on the status symbol that is the blue and white badge on the hood instead of being the ultimate driving machine).

    But what if it can be attributed to something else: the fact that after a while, practically everything loses some/all of its luster? Growing up in the 80s/90s, the GAP was a great place to shop. It was hip, current, in-style. Now, not so much, and quite frankly, a lot of what they sell looks shabbily made. Ever notice how everyone and their mother seems to have a Coach bag now? I’m not sure if their construction standards are what they were 20 years ago, but it seems to me that most women have moved on to Michael Kors bags (my wife works in retail, BTW).

    I’m sure these two brands are still making boatloads of cash (just like BMW), but they’ve lost some of their luster because people just move on to something else.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      This is the cycle with all luxury goods: obscure and desirable beginnings (what someone in the “know” would buy; diffusion and purchase by the masses; original buyers moving on to another product as it is now too mainstream and has lost its purpose as a status symbol.

      The Mercedes “G” or the Range Rover is another tragic example of this.

      • 0 avatar

        ALL luxury goods? I’d argue that Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Lamborghini are all thriving today, making the most desirable and exclusive cars in their long and illustrious histories. They would never have survived if they tried to continue as cottage industries.

        • 0 avatar
          kmoney

          All those still don’t convey the status they once did. Driving a Ferrari or Lambo is still impressive today, but nowhere near what it was in the 60’s or 70’s. Ferrari and Lambo used to be the purview of industrialists, celebrities and very successful entrepreneurs; now a managing partner in a big 5 accounting firm could probably stretch a 458.

          Pagani, Koenigsegg, or the myriad limited editions from Lambourhgini or AM are now the “must haves” for people in that income cohort who want to set themselves apart. RR is still up there, but Bentley is definitely moving itself down a segment and pushing hard on the Continental and now the V8 continental.

          These cars are still exclusive and desirable to virtually all of the population, but for luxury goods makers it’s about differentiation and being competitive in their given category and market segment, nothing else.

        • 0 avatar
          S1L1SC

          I’ll just point out that RR is owned by BMW, Bentley by VW, Aston Martin by Ford?, Lamborghini by VW, Ferrari by FIAT…

          None of these have “survived” per se – they all got bought by other brands.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I don’t know. I’d still be happy to drive off one of their lots with a new stripped-down 2 series w/ a manual gearbox. That’d be about the only new Bimmer I’d want to own though.

    A good friend works at the Hertz counter at a local BMW dealership, and boy does he have some stories to share about the nastiness of their typical a-hole customers.

    I wonder who’s worse now: the new Bimmer owner (a ditzy blonde who can’t drive, or wannabe business pro wearing an iphone headset), or the 25 year old guy driving a jacked up SilveradoF-150Ram diesel with smokestacks revving his engine at every intersection.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Easy answer.

      The cat in the jacked up F1tundraram with or with out stacks is by far the one you want to interact with. A douche is a douche no matter what striped suit or car they are driving,

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The smokestacks are a symtom of being a douche.

        Now, if the truck has mud, dings, and appropriate towing gear attached, that guy probably just needs to move heavy things from muhdy fields. Probably easier to deal with than any of the other stereotypes.

  • avatar
    Yesac13

    This article by Jack Baruth will lay out some of the reasons for the decline of BMW.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/avoidable-contact-the-man-who-saved-bmw/

    I think most people, me included, love the low streamlined looks of the 1990s BMWs. We all miss that. But due to regulations, these low BMWs will not be coming back. The same can be said for other makes including the 1990s Hondas which is aging just as well as the BMWs of the same era (really good). Once cars went tall, notions of good handling seems to have gone out of the window. If you go tall, might as well go SUV – easy to get into and out. More storage space. Nicer seating postion. Its sad but there it is. Combine this with brand whoring (people who buy for the brand, not the bones itself), you get the cars of today. Read the linked article, if you haven’t!

  • avatar
    lon888

    I only remember 90’s BMW as unreliable pieces of crap. My former brother-in-law had a 1996 5-series that he claimed he bought on a time share plan. He got the car 1 week a month and the dealership got it the other 3. No repair bill was ever below $1000 and he considered himself very fortunate if it was below $2000. He was your typical lawyer driving around in his “status symbol”. The price people pay to be smug…and he wasn’t “cool” at all.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I never had much interest in BMW, but before Bangle Banged things up I could at least see why someone would be drawn to one of their cars, tasteful styling (and auto mags gushing over them).

    I’m just not a BMW guy though, whenever I see them its either an E46 thats been modded is tasteless ways (big spoiler, crippled suspension), or I read Road and Track and hear comments like “The Chevy SS handles like a BMW E39 series!”, I just get tired of hearing about them.

    If its not mods or mags, its old folk driving them below the speed limit. The “Ultimate Driving machine” being taking up a task better suite for Town Cars.

    I don’t really care that modern Bimmers are bloated caricatures of what they once were, ca mags will love them and status seekers will love them. Their current line-up is idiotic to say the least but again, so what?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      For what it is worth, the GM Zeta platform suspension is pretty much a lift of the BMW setup, right up to the flaws of eating front lower control arms on a semi-annual basis, bushings that get soft before their time, and ball joint issues.

      The setups from an engineering stand point are stunningly similar.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thats interesting, with flaws like eating the lower control arms I can see why BMW canned the E39.

        One of these days I want to drive an older Bimmer just to see what the fuss is all about, I doubt I need sporty handling on a daily basis.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    To which “edge” are you referring? Because it sure ain’t the sales edge. That has BMW laughing all the way to the bank.

    News Flash: Most car buyers are NOT enthusiasts, and cars that cater to the masses sell a lot higher volume, and a “prestige” label can turn them into rolling money machines.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I’m the first to admit I am (was?) a BMW fan and have owned 4. My first was an X5 I drove for 7 years. It was a reliable, fun, sporty vehicle. The next was a BMW M and was the most amazing car I had owned up until then. The e30 M3 to me is a car I crave to own. I was very close to pulling the trigger on a new M4, but reviews quickly showed it just wsan’t the car I was hoping for.

    To me it all changed right around the mid-2000s. There wasn’t one single item and it was a progression. It wasn’t the X5, it wasn’t the Bangle designs, it was a collection of changes mostly discussed above. BMW had a following because of the driving dynamics, time, engineering, the marketplace, corporate decisions had changed the formula.

  • avatar

    Some of you would name their first SUV—the X5—as the perpetrator, but I most definitely think it’s the E65 7-Series, which debuted for MY2002 here in the States. That car—the pre-facelift 2002-2005 version in particular—looked like several cars grafted together, it was overweight and full of prototype-grade technology. It was the debut of smart keys, iDrive and electronic gear selectors. And while those things aren’t necessarily bad, they became the focus of the brand. If you look at a modern BMW, you’ll see that the brand’s focus is not on driving dynamics and certainly not on living up to its “Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline…but rather fancy chimes, 50-way powered seats, and that giant widescreen that dominates the dashboard….oh, and front-wheel drive (isn’t that what MINI is for?!) This has culminated into the current (F10) 5-Series, a vehicle that should be light on its feet and a joy to drive, but is instead a German vault, one that is unquestionably outperformed by a certain RWD Hyundai.

    I was born in the early nineties, so I can’t say I grew up in the era of focused Bimmers, but even *I* can tell that there is a problem. What’s most dangerous, though, is that all of the gizmos BMW has pioneered in the last ten years have been echoed and copied by the rest of the automotive industry.

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      The bustle-butt early 2000’s 7 series was the automotive equivalent of a suite at the Aria in Las Vegas and every bit as frustrating.

      BMW’s change of focus was the 2nd attempt to broaden their sales base. Their failed foray into the automotive equivalent of Afghanistan (graveyard of automotive empires) the UK auto industry being the first.

      Looking on the bright side, if BMW hadn’t been distracted by having Rover forced down their throat by Margaret Thatcher, we might never have enjoyed the last but best of their finest, focused vehicles from the late 90’s.

      The 540M fire breathing dragon wagon will always be my favorite.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Duh. The new cars are designed with a global market appeal in mind. The US is no longer the only target demographic in the radar.

    Head to South America and the X whatever and the GT whatever hold much more desirability inside the AAA class shopping malls (where these cars are marketed alongside Armani, Gucci, Fendi and the like) and having an 8″ screen on the dash with Facebook link is much, much more important than a 50-50 weight distribution. Head to Asia and the bling factor becomes the key issue. LED, chrome around where you are to be seen (windows) and the M badge rule.
    Vast majority of owners will have never heard of Vanos much less variable geometry anything.

  • avatar
    Fred

    If BMW didn’t sell SUVs and soft luxury cars they would be out of business or neutered by a corporate overload. You can still get a M3 so I’m not really sure what all the complaining is about.

  • avatar
    Gandhi

    Quote: “My theory: it wasn’t a car that caused BMW to lose it. It was an all-out, no-holds-barred sales-chasing mentality; the kind of mentality Chrysler has with the rental fleets. ”

    This is a problem with all the German automakers, from Porsche on down. Some, like BMW, are further along, than others, like Audi. But they are all headed there.

    • 0 avatar

      They need to learn from history, eg. Cadillac. Once the standard of the world, they became little more than bigger, expensive Chevys/Oldsmobiles/Buicks with little in the way of added value. In the short term, this strategy worked, and GM hit record sales numbers, probably with record per unit profits as platform sharing became a religion in the 60s-70s-80s. But we know how that sad story ended, with Pontiac and Oldsmobile getting sacrificed and Cadillac limping into the 90s and 2000s, wondering where their customers had gone. (Hint, they were all over 75 years old. They died.)

      But what a comeback story for Cadillac. It took 20 years or so, If you count the revolutionary 1993 Seville as the first model that indicated there was life beyond broughams and brocade interiors. Today, I’d gladly park a CTS-V in my garage. Except that Audi A/R/RS 7 is soooo tasty looking…

      • 0 avatar
        bomberpete

        It’s interesting that ATS and CTS sales are soft while the cars themselves are more hard-edged than what BMW has evolved into.

        If Cadillac’s brilliant new marketing trust in Soho can’t figure out how to exploit this, they are collectively a bag of hammers.

        Seriously, rather than whining, shouldn’t enthusiasts of some means be haggling for lease deals from Caddy?

  • avatar
    jmo

    “But in my opinion, none of that would’ve happened if BMW had remained happy with the status quo: build cool cars, and sell a lot of them. Not tons of them, mind you. Not zillions.”

    As Danio mentioned – that way lies SAAB & Volvo. They need volume to survive as an independent company. The development costs are such that you need to amortize that over at least 2 million cars a year to survive.

  • avatar
    AmeroGuy

    The youngsters will probably disagree but the writing was on the wall in 1994 when the Spartenburg plant opened. That’s when you knew the future of BMW was all about the American masses not the ultimate driving machine.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      That actually had a lot more to do with import taxes, exchange rates, cost of manufacturing, etc.

      Plus the X5 was envisioned as a US market vehicle to begin with, so it made sense to build it here vs. paying to import it.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …My theory: it wasn’t a car that caused BMW to lose it. It was an all-out, no-holds-barred sales-chasing mentality; the kind of mentality Chrysler has with the rental fleets. I think it was this strategy – and not the vehicles themselves – that led to the decline of BMW. Essentially, it was the moment the automaker went from “How can we make this car cooler?” to “Why don’t we have a vehicle in the all-wheel drive rhombus segment…

    This. BMW made a decision to be everything to everyone. They are over segmented, and one only has to look at the top selling cars in North America to know – boring sells. One can look at the luxury segment also and quickly conclude – boring sells.

    BMW stopped being an engineering driven company, “the ultimate driving machine,” and instead has become a sales and market driven company. By not playing to the niche of enthusiast near luxury/luxury drivers, and instead gunning for the top spot against Mercedes, Lexus and Audi – they lost their way.

    • 0 avatar
      ckb

      Agreed. In other words it happened when shareholders told them that if you’re not #1 in the global market you’re a failure and economists told them unlimited growth is possible.

  • avatar
    James2

    The turning point happened when Ford hired this guy:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Reitzle

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      A friend of mine who worked on Panther platform over at Ford used to have an audio recording of Wolfie walking around the recently refreshed Town Car (1998 refresh) and picking it to pieces. Truly a hilarious thing to listen to. He was merciless in his critique of the car, especially the massive gap between the headlamps and the hood – something about being able to shove a hot dog in that gap…

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Is that the same recording, or maybe I’m thinking of something Bangle said when he was shown a model of a new design, he walked up to the car and blasted it as the worst thing he’d ever seen. He then quietly walked around to the other side of the car…

        “OMG, they did the same thing on this side!”

        Funniest automotive design one-liner I’ve ever heard

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thats when the Town Car went all Hyundai, I’d probably rail on it too.

        Did Ford ever credit a stylist to the Panther cars?

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    What is this? Did someone take an ‘when did Honda lose it’s Mojo’ article and replace the names with BMW names?
    Granted, I’m not a huge BMW fan, but if anything, BMW peaked with the sharknose 6 series. I have owned the ‘last real’ BMW , the E34 5 series, and whle it didn’t manage to make me like BMW’s more, instead it crushed my hand, saved me loads of money on cash (used twice that on parts though), and I improved my general health because of all the walking. But that did not in any way convince me that an E39 would be worth going for.
    What ‘killed’ BMW was most likely the E30 3-series (the ‘ultimate Bluebird 510’) . Not that it was a bad car in any way (not as good as a Ford Sierra though), but it became a best-seller. Great successes are always hard to follow, but the E36 was in most way a better car than the E30 (and possibly even better than a Ford Sierra, only more old-fashioned looking)
    The release of the E39 and E36 coincided with the death of reliable well-built german cars though, which swarmed through the 90’s, as the ‘big three’ (VAG/Mercedes/BMW) decided they were going to try to make good looking, modern, comfortable cars, instead off dead reliable old fashioned (timeless?) agricultural autobahn cruisers.
    And, (like in the case with Hondas ‘Mojo’) all cars are getting more and more alike today, both because of regulations and more collaboration between manufacturers, and because manufacturers are more and more afraid of taking risks. (and no, I’m not the kind of guy who thinks ‘all new cars look the same’ it’s more that they all feel and drive the same today, and use the same parts suppliers, while car designers are having as much fun rght now as they had in the late 50’s)

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      That’s easy, when Mr. Honda took his foot off the pedal and allowed factory installed air conditioning in their vehicles.

      That was the thin edge of the wedge.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      ” I have owned the ‘last real’ BMW , the E34 5 series”

      E39

      FIFY

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Not a fan of that bloated/melted thing that can spontaneously start to rust in the middle of the roof, or a door. Not to mention how the trunk lid looks after a couple of weeks.
        I do think the M5 kit helps a lot, but the E34 looked good in almost any configuration, and was unquestionably a BMW, an E39 without its kidneys would look like any other 90’s car.
        It doesn’t help that the E39 M5 had a V8…

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I had a 4DSC Maxima that was almost a carbon copy of the E34 which was one of the main reasons I bought it. That was followed by a E39 530i straight six which was hands down the finest car I ever had. Then BMW came out with the bloated E60. I’ve never looked at BMW again

          I lived in the South so the rusted roof and the whatever happened to the trunk lid did not effect me

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The way that I see it Honda only got better, they went from making cramped under-powered FWD cars to making spacious sedans with some actual power behind them.

      Yes the S2000 is dead and so is the real NSX, but everything else has only gotten better, styling aside.

    • 0 avatar

      If you are leasing 80% of your new cars, what’s the point of making them last longer than 4 years without requiring seriously expensive service? That’s the pre-owned certified division’s problem.

  • avatar
    brianyates

    Decline you say,lost it’s edge? Bmw 3 series rule where Ilive, they’re as popular as flies around a turd. I have a 2009 550i that I love driving everyday. I think that there are alot of green eyed monsters out there. As the French say ” chacun son gout”

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    It all comes down to the 3-series. Success of the E30 led to the E36 selling well and becoming the aspirational European car. Then they started adding luxury and the automotive press ate it up. Instead of a sports sedan, we had a sports luxury sedan… And aspirational luxury buyers sold their Camry(s) and lapped it up. Thereby further bloating the car. BMW had to keep increasing power to carry around that extra weight, and the press and enthusiasts kept eating it up even further.

    And when cars came out that returned to the simpler formula (e.g., Lexus IS300) they kept “losing” in comparisons by auto journalists who always babble about heritage instead of what was right in front of them. The IS300 was a much better sports sedan than the E46 for driver engagement, but no review would give it its plaudits. It would have been a million times better as the Toyota Altezza and a bit cheaper, but c’est la vie.

    And once BMW had a taste of sales success, it got hooked.

    So I blame (a) journalists who didn’t review the cars they had in front of them and (b) the aspirational buyers that BMW decided to court lured by the sporty mystique which they didn’t really want.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    I wanted a 1 series coupe, the 128i with a manual transmission. It’s was a proper rear drive sports sedan, my idea of one anyway, with 2 proper doors and not 4 and a proper 6-cylinder engine. And it reminded me of the 2002, a little boxy with its own personality. And it was affordable at roughly 30k. And now it’s gone. I couldn’t even tell you what replaced it but that replacement probably has a turbo 4 and starts at 40k, and I don’t want it anyway, regardless of price.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @jdash1972

      228i, starts at $32K, has a turbo-4 that blows the N52 in the 128i away in every possible way (and I own a car with an N52). And unlike the 128i, it is actually a nice looking car. With a little negotiating skill and Euro Delivery you could conceivably get one for mid-20’s. The spiritual successor to the fabulous 2002 Turbo.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      You are part of the problem because you didn’t buy one. This past summer I was on a number of BMW dealer websites and invariably they still had leftover 2013 128i models still in stock as the 2015 models were already arriving. Lots of people say they want normally aspirated manuals versions, but very few actually buy them.

  • avatar
    profk24

    Stuck behind one of those Gran Turismo things in traffic the other day, I suddenly realized that Bob Lutz’s old line about GM cars looking like “angry kitchen appliances” now applies to a good part of the BMW lineup.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    I appear to be the eldest BMW owner here so far, having owned a 1969 1600 and a nearly indestructible 1972 2002tii that was still going strong in the mid-80s with 288,000 miles. My fleet at the time included a 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite and a 1967 Mustang GT big-block fastback. The turning point was in the late 70s, when BMW discovered that the roundel was worth $5K by itself; people would pay whatever they asked. BMW was a specialty manufacturer at that point with very limited production facilities. The die was cast with the 320i, the 530i, and the birth of the 7-series, as BMW made the commitment to become a major manufacturer. Not to say there haven’t been any number of brilliant BMWs since then, but I think the i3 was inevitable at that point.

    • 0 avatar

      Rocketrodeo, you must be about my age (wrong side of 45) because you recall the 320i being blamed for diluting the brand. I remember that as well. In the late 70s early 80s all the buff books bemoaned BMWs deviation from the sports sedan purity of the 2002 and the 528i. Recall that the 1982 528e, with BMWs high efficiency low-revving ETA inline 6, was held up as another example of BMW losing its way. But as you point out, there have been several models since then that kept true enthusiasts coming back for more.

      Everything is cyclical in life, especially in the auto biz. Look at Cadillac, declared DOA just 15 years ago, now they are true players and worthy competitors to the bucks up German brands. The truth is all companies are constantly changing their product mix, in an effort to keep pace with an ever evolving car buying market. Women are extremely influential when it comes to new car purchases, ignore them at your peril. But I think there are still 4 or 5 legit BMW models that would keep an enthusiast quite happy for the duration of the payments.

      Most car companies who strictly stick to the purist ideal fail. (See Lotus.) Either that or they are subsumed by a larger auto company who wants them as a boutique brand. Unless you’re an ultra high end hyper-car builder like Pagini or something, you must diversify and “dilute” the brand in order to achieve adequate profitability.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      BMWs didn’t only become more tepid in the late 70s, the prices went out of control as well. In 1984 a 528e retailed for $24,565, or $55,971.32 in 2014 money. Those factors doomed BMW to be a status car first and a performance car second, even after performance picked up and prices became more sane. The used market is a little different, of course, since there are so many ratty E36s running around these days, but in the early 80s the only value was the badge in the US market. Of course in the rest of the world it was a different story, but that’s the case with every car maker.

  • avatar
    John

    BMW lost it’s edge when Americans started to bulk up. Causation or association?

  • avatar
    meefer

    Around the time the last 760iL with a V12 came out. I remember an article where an engineer stated something to the effect of forced induction being cheating, aka what Mercedes was doing.

    Fast forward a couple of years, and it’s turbos everywhere.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    Serious Doug Demuro? I like, I like. Keep it up. The meeting between the 2 era’s of BMW is the funniest/truest comment I’ve heard in a long time.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I completely disagree with all this demagogy. “a front-wheel drive electric car” — please! I disagree that the new models are too insulating. I have driven many — they are all clearly superior to anything else, especially Honda/Toyota/Nissan/Hyundai that seem to be so incredibly popular in the US.

    I love BMW, I have been buying (no, not leasing) one after another. If they keep offering them with a manual gearbox and four doors — I will keep buying them. I love the F30. I love the F10. I think they are better family cars, roomier, quieter, smoother ride. I still love the way they drive. I love the way they feel. I think they are good value. I love the dealer service. I love the easy maintenance, the terrific quality, the excellent long term durability. I love the availability of reasonably priced replacement parts that are of clearly superior quality to anything else. I love the smart electronics I have complete access to. I love that I can get map updates at minimal cost. I love iDrive. I love everything about my BMWs. Just about the only thing I don’t like is the lack of space for a spare tire.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I have to ask if you’ve actually owned or driven anything else?

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        Yes, of course. I have owned:

        1989 Subaru Justy 4WD RS
        1986 SAAB 900S 16V
        1994 Subaru Impreza L Wagon
        1995 Subaru Legacy L AWD
        1998 Subaru Impreza 25RS
        1995 Honda Accord SE (flip)
        1993 Ford Escort Wagon (flip)
        1998 SAAB 900S 2.3
        1988 Volvo 240 Wagon
        2003 BMW 325i M Sport
        2003 BMW 325 Sport
        2007 BMW 328xiT Sport
        2005 Mercedes SLK350
        1994 SAAB 900 Turbo convertible (flip)
        1996 Buick Century Wagon (moving house, flip)
        2012 VW Passat S
        2010 BMW 550i M Sport
        2015 Chevy Traverse LT

        Most with manual transmission, with obvious exceptions.

        I have driven hundreds of other cars.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Just checking, because you called BMW “reliable”, which contradicts both conventional wisdom and published ratings.

          Also, I say all of the same things about my mid-2000s Toyotas that you say about your BMWs from the same era, which is why I was curious about your frame of reference.

          • 0 avatar
            vvk

            Actually, I did not use the word reliable anywhere. Read it again.

            Having said that, all my Euro cars have been extremely reliable and cheap to own. I had my first SAAB for 16 years and sold it with 350k miles. Original engine, gearbox, clutch. It drove like a brand new car and the black paint still had an amazing deep shine. I am extremely satisfied with my BMWs in terms of reliability, too. My 325i is 11 years old and I just replaced the original battery. It feels like a new car inside, the materials are of highest possible quality, it rides, steers, brakes and shifts smooth as butter. The engine has no vibration and is amazingly quiet. It still has the original stainless steel exhaust system that sounds awesome.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            The phrase “long term durability” kinda implies “reliable” unless if you meant they’re good at fighting corrosion or something.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            It may be a distinction worth making. My Ford Ranger was durable but not particularly reliable over the long haul, because it was easy to fix.

            My Prius is reliable, but not particularly durable. It’s a lightweight design, and we’ve knocked it out of alignment on potholes more than once. But it’s made it to 165k miles without a drivetrains problem, and feels like it’s just broken in.

            My Volkswagen was neither durable nor celiamle. Dealer repairs cost about as much as a BMW as near as I could tell (several times what it cost at Ford), but happened more often than for either. Makes me skeptical of that “German engineering” reputation.

            But he said his BMW was both durable and didn’t cost much to maintain, which is a claim I’m skeptical of. He seemed to believe it, so I was curious about his frame of reference, which consists of commodity cars from from the 1980s and 1990s, then luxury cars. My frame of reference is quite different, since “the bad old days” for me were hand-me-down junkers from the 1980s, decent cars from the 1990s, and now mid-2000s Fords and Toyotas. I doubt that owning a BMW would lead me to the conclusion that they were durable, reliable, or had reasonable repair costs – because my standards are set be newer/better/faster/cheaper commodity cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            When you jump through cars on a regular basis anything and everything will be reliable.

            Though 350k out of an older Saab is commendable, were the CV joints and other bits all original too?

            European cars can be cheap to keep going so long as you know where to shop, and have enough money to buy another car every year just before the E39s lower suspension gives out.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “When you jump through cars on a regular basis anything and everything will be reliable.”

            Yup! And leasing is one way to hedge your bet that everything you drive is reliable, at least for the length of the lease.

            After the lease ends? Who cares? Let the next owner worry about the financial implications of maintaining and repairing it to keep it running.

          • 0 avatar
            vvk

            > The phrase “long term durability” kinda implies
            > “reliable” unless if you meant they’re good at fighting corrosion or something.

            I disagree. For example, old aircooled Porsche 911 is one of the least reliable cars you can buy but at the same time it is probably the most durable car you can buy. And yes, excellent corrosion resistance is a big part of the formula.

            > When you jump through cars on a regular basis
            > anything and everything will be reliable.

            Yes, but I am not the one doing that. I keep the cars I really like for a long time. The SAABs, the 25RS, the 325i M Sport… These are my long term cars that have been very cheap to own and really enjoyable.

            > Though 350k out of an older Saab is commendable,
            > were the CV joints and other bits all original too?

            Yes, CV joints were original. I did have some electrical issues with the dashboard due to not replacing the rusted out cat shield in time. My own fault, really. In the last five or six years, after I stopped autocrossing it regularly, the old SAAB cost me nothing — nothing broke on it at all. I was even able to stop all oil leaks by replacing the front main seal (myself) and switching to 20W-50 oil per TSB that came out in the early 90s… which made the engine amazingly smooth and quiet, too. That car had the factory roadholding kit option with thicker sway bars and very stiff springs/shocks from the SPG. It put a huge smile on my face every time I drove it. The gearshift lever was the smoothest I have ever tried, too. Changing gears took a tiny flick of the wrist, just perfect!

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    BTW, those looking for a more ‘real’ BMW (or Honda for that matter) can still buy a 1 series hatchback if they really want to. (or a Fit in case of Honda)
    ‘real’ and ‘proper’ cars are getting more and more rare though, and fi you look at the ToyoBaru, probably a waste of money for the poor mnaufacturer who has the guts to make one…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The general rule is that a car company hits its peak sometime between your teens and twenties. (You can add a few years to that range if you’re one of the few fans who actually bought one.)

    As you get older, it all goes downhill from there. Same thing goes for music, which was always better before you got older, no matter what year you were born.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      As posted in other threads music, fashion and cars all peak at the age when you had your first sexual experience. Numerous academic studies have noted this.

      Thus muscle cars will lose much of their value/price as boomers age because they mean very little to newer generations.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I don’t agree with the latter part, in that top-trim high performance two-door cars almost always end up becoming collectible. (If the nameplate was a dog, then perhaps not.) That configuration resonates with car guys.

        Nostalgia is usually derived from youth. Plenty of rose-colored lenses, as the bad stuff is forgotten and the good stuff exaggerated.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Most guys 45+ want a pre-malaise American muscle car because they were either the cars that the cool guys drove or the cars that they were able to buy when they first started driving.

          They remember working on them in the driveway, using them on dates and racing them on the street.

          The older generation generally now has some spare money so they buy what they want to recapture their youth. Therefore forcing prices into the stratosphere.

          The younger generations see these American muscle cars as garage queens, sitting a car shows or being driven gently by old guys with their wife beside them. So they do not fire the imagination of the younger generation.

          Instead in 20 plus years when the boomers will no longer be controlling the market/prices for collector cars, we will probably see ‘rice rockets’ and the cars featured on Grand Theft Auto as the ‘ones to buy/own’ and the prices should reflect this.

          There will still be some car guys that want them but as we know, this is a relatively small market.

          • 0 avatar

            If you’re 45+, you probably have a “Dazed and Confused” frame of reference for musclecars. For example, in 1976, the timeframe for that movie, I was 8 years old and already car crazy. Those were my formative years where I really began to understand that I was a car guy. And all those 1970 Chevelle SSs, GTOs, and ‘Cudas were just 6 year old used cars that high school seniors (who I sort of looked up to/feared) were driving around. No one else wanted those muscle icons in the era of expensive, scarce gasoline, but I got the connection between having a cool car and getting girls, being popular and having a lot of autonomy.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            I’m 52 and lost my virginity in 1978.

            Sure, there were some good cars (including BMW) and better music (I mainly loved Elvis Costello), but I really think the early Nineties were a whole lot better for both.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    They had to chase size and scale or run the risk of being bought out.

    Can you image how badly a company like Ford could f_uck up BMW? It’d be worse than it is now, which isn’t all that bad.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    Bmw is simply building a better business, for points that many of you have touched on above. But they still build some amazing cars.
    Has anyone seen an M6 Gran Coupe? It is stunning! The 5 series still looks great. I don’t care for the 4 series so much, but I am interested in the 2 series, especially the upcoming M2.
    My point is Bmw does still make some great, driver oriented cars. You just have to look through a huge list of models now to find one.
    And I don’t think anything is wrong with the 4 banger turbo. I took my E92 in for maintenance and got a new 3 series as a loaner with that engine and the 8 speed setup. It was a honey of a drivetrain!

  • avatar
    EAF

    The competition now does it better for less or, at the very least, will get you close enough.

  • avatar
    supernova72

    Former E36 M3 owner and current E46 M3 owner. Must admit I’m having a hard time figuring what what my next “M” car should be. Do I really need an E92 M3 with 414HP and that high revving V-8 motor and 16mpg?? Hmmm…

    I can’t afford the new M4. Nice used E92 M3’s are commanding $43-$45K and have 40,000 miles on them.

    Would I feel weird about going to the M235i since it’s not a “real” M car? The more I read about the M235i the more I like it. Feeling perplexed…

    • 0 avatar
      jcain

      I have an M235, and used to have an E93 M3. I loved the steering and character of the engine in the M3. Driving it on the right road felt like a special experience, but I live in Los Angeles so, realistically, the M235 is better. The suspension is much more compliant, and the turbo I6 has a lot more low-end torque so it feels noticeably faster the majority of the time. The 600lb weight difference between the M235 coupe and the M3 convertible is a factor there, of course, but the M235 is still somewhat lighter than the E92 M3.

      The only real complaint I have about the M235 is the steering. It’s precise, but you do not get the feedback you got in older BMWs. I hear the M cars use a different setup and the F80 M3 is somewhat better, so I’m looking forward to checking out the M2 when my M235 lease is up in a couple years.

      • 0 avatar
        supernova72

        Thanks Jcain. I appreciate the feedback. I live in Seattle and our traffic is pretty nasty as well so I don’t really get a chance to “drive” my E46 if thruth were known.

        I have looked at an M235i up close and like the style. I’ve been reading about the M2 as well and the thought of 370+HP is appealing.

        I’ve also never owned a turbo or supercharged car. Folks are telling me I should drive a 2013 S5 before I do anything. So far I’m resisting. Ha.

  • avatar
    dwford

    BMW lost it when the decided to listen to the non-enthusiast wives that were really driving the cars. Then, BMW latched onto the SUV craze, though you really can’t fault them since all the luxury makes were doing it, and the money was irresistible. The final straw was when they realized that their customers were mostly posers who didn’t even know which wheels moved the car. That opened the door to the coming FWD BMW’s. All of that will well and good, but lately the new BMW’s are just plain ugly. 3-series GT? X1? X4? 2-Series ActiveTourer? Come on, BMW. Just terrible.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    After Bangle got involved.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I’d pay BMW prices for an heirloom-quality vehicle.

    But that’s not what they’re selling.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    My first BMW was an ’85 325e, 2dr., sports seats manual tranny. I won a tsd rally using the on board computer! The next was a 535iS with a 5 speed. Both were excellent cars which in their original shape, I’d take back without question. But, I think the change took place in the early/mid 2000s. In 2005, I got a loaded Z4 3.0, 6 speed. And I liked the Bangle staying. I autoxd this car was was soundly beaten in class by Honda’s S2000. It was just too damn heavy as MARKETING overtook ENGINEERING and the dealers in the US led the charge. In 2006, the M Roadster/coupe were released. I hastened to the dealer here to order up an M Coupe ala Z4 sight unseen much less driven. As I planned to trade my immaculate Z4, still under warranty, the deal needed a fair price for my car. The sales manager drove it and came back with a hugh low-ball offer about $20k less than I paid the year beforehand! When I question why, he said, “it has a manual transmission and everyone wants an automatic.” This was a friggin sports car! I couldn’t believe it and walked away. A year later, I traded the Z4 for an ’07 Porsche Cayman S. The Porsche dealer gave me more than the price offered by the BMW dealer a year before. Therein lies the rub! BMW and the U.S. dealer network lost its way.

  • avatar
    Karl M

    When BBS rims no longer look good

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Once one cuts back the “Fat” or Gran Coupes, X1s, Giga Worlds, etc, the CORE BMW sedans, wagons and SUVs are all very competent. The 3-Series, 5-Series and X5 are all class benchmarks.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    BMW’s have just become more and more quietly competent, there wasn’t a single point in time. They have become every bit as much of a refrigerator as a Camry, just much faster. You remember cars for their quirks and character. They have to have issues of some sort (besides breaking down) so that you realize how glorious the engine sounds or the shifter snicks. When things just efficiently work they become unremarkable. They didn’t so much lose their edge as they buried their character. The i8 is every bit as ‘edgy’ for the modern market as the M1 was 35 years ago, but the i8 distances the driver from the car in my opinion.

    But if you HAVE to set a date, it was the day they started making up engine sounds through the speakers.

    The follow up question is when did Mercedes get it’s groove back? They’re really working on driver engagement in some of their models.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    West Germany made the best cars. Ever since reunification, they’ve been chock full of idiotic initiatives and complacency. That they don’t self destruct on any given day is dumb luck.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    The way that I see it BMW “lost its edge” when every single mid-sized and large sedan decided to get all “sporty”, these days you don’t have to buy a BMW to get “sporty” driving characteristics, they’re in EVERYTHING from Jukes to Accords.

    BMWs simply trying to play catch up by building a car for every single type of customer, once they know what sells and what doesn’t their line-up will trim down.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      +1

      The commodity cars I drive and own are so good that BMW doesn’t have any incremental benefit that in wort the price delta.

      My father in law (former early 1990s 525i and current Z3 owner) is puzzled about why I won’t drink the koolaid… But, the badge appeal and slightly “sportier” character that move the metal aren’t as important to me as the flexibility of my minivan or the practical high tech efficiency of our Prius have to offer the family fleet.

      BMW can’t match either vehicle, and shouldn’t try — because they would turn in to GM if they wanted to compete on all fronts.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Damn you, autocorrect!

        I use a Dvorak keyboard layout on my phone, which is good for my thumbs but makes autocorrect even worse!

        My apologies for the typos in this, are every, post.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I use a plain Jane keyboard and I make typos, perfect grammar and perfect spelling just looks robotic imo.

          “the badge appeal and slightly “sportier” character that move the metal aren’t as important to me as the flexibility of my minivan”

          Most of todays cars are all “sporty” both visually and driving dynamics-wise if Auto magazines are to be believed, thus “sporty” is irrelevant.

          I’m just weird with cars, I’ve driven a “sporty” 90’s Accord, a “sporty” Volvo 850 (they marketed the snot out of that thing not being sporty), drove a Nissan 300ZX, owned an 80’s Mustang. All of them were terrible daily drivers comfort wise.

          I currently run a Volvo 240 wagon, spacious as heck, doesn’t have very “sporty” handling but it has better feedback than most of the “sporty” cars I’ve driven.

  • avatar
    DenverInfidel

    Totally anectdotal since I’ve never owned one, but I had a coworker who was a die hard Bimmer guy. I remember him giving up on them shortly after the twin turbo versions came out. He had so many problems with that car he was able to get out of the lease and bought something else. He said he wanted his previous 330x back, it felt more solid and was more reliable. I can remember riding in a new X3 when they came out and couldn’t believe how cheap and tinny it felt. It was a young female who was so proud she could afford a new BMW.

    I still think some of the models are attractive, and as mentioned the core sedans are good, but it’s clear their focus is market share in every segment. Some of their models make no sense to me, but I see them everywhere.

  • avatar
    7402

    I still keep my ’74 2002 (E10) as a fair-weather driver. It’s a really fun car that handles well and still exudes BMW DNA in every way.

    I like the E60/E61 5 series — good looking and very much a BMW whether by comparison to days gone by or in relation to anything else on the road today. The 1-series is awesome and a blast to drive, I typically borrow a diesel hatchback when I’m in Europe–we’d probably have one of those hatchbacks here in the USA if BMW sold them here, we have a MINI instead.

    To the extent that BMW has “lost the plot” I believe it has more to do with the clientele than design or machinery. The E30 crowd of the 1980s and 1990s were very much the yuppies that grew up to buy 5-series later and then shift to the X vehicles in the 2000s along with the seismic shift toward SUVs. I love BMWs, but man did I hate yuppies, and their association with the 3-series was enough to make me run from the brand. I too buy (and don’t buy) cars based on their image. I can’t say whether the BMW marketing folks analyze people who don’t buy their cars as well as people who do, but it probably bears a look.

    If we buy a new BMW it will probably be an X3 for my wife or I’ll go into the used/certified market for the newest 5-series I can find with three pedals (2013 is the last MY if memory serves).

  • avatar
    Franken-Subie

    As soon as this jerk named Ron bought one. All downhill from there.

  • avatar
    dartman

    It never did. BMW’s still got it, and the detractors just can’t wait until the mighty one falls. Every single BMW is designed with mechanical performance in mind to varying degrees. Name another full line manufacturer that is equal in this regard. Think of BMW as the New England Patriots or Dallas Cowboys of automobile manufacturers; the history of success and accomplishment is vilified. I can think of no other brand that draws the vitriol and hatred from people that have never driven one, much less owned one. The dislike usually stems not from any real knowledge of the cars but from stereotypes of the owners. While it is true the majority of owners/drivers probably are incapable of using even 2/10’s of the cars capabilities, they want and enjoy the association with a German performance automobile. It’s a strange dynamic.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, but after seeing my daughter, BF and neighbor fork out insane amounts of money in maintenance on their BMW’s that have just passed their warranty period, I am convinced these are POS that are built to fail

      • 0 avatar
        dartman

        So what do you have in your garage? In mine I have a 1991 300zxTwinTurbo; 1997 BMW 318ti; 2011 Mazda 3s and a 2011 335i M-sport and a 2014 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn 4×4 . You prove my point, in that you have no personal experience; you referenced your daughter, boyfriend and neighbor as paying insane amounts for maintenance. What is insane? You do realize that dealer charged maintenance will be the absolute highest that you can pay; particularly when you are talking about a luxury performance German automobile.. Most people who become accustomed to zero cost maintenance for four years and 50,000 miles are shocked when the factory recommended maintenance costs are quoted. If you have a trusted, competent mechanic, the parts and maintenance are only slightly higher than the domestic competition; much less if you’re capable of performing the work yourself. That does not make the automobile itself a POS. If I paid the local Nissan dealer to service the 300zxTT it would make the local BMW dealer’s service department look cheap. The Ram truck is the cheapest to maintain and own due to it’s simplicity and mass popularity. I fully expect to have minimal repair/maintenance costs for 200k or 8 years. You pay to play.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    “So, what say you? Where do you think BMW took a wrong turn?”

    One word: Bangle

  • avatar
    Morea

    1995: Alfa Romeo leaves the US market.

    The bloat started to set in once their only real competitor in the sports sedan market left.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Alfa was never really a competitor for BMW here, if only because of lack of dealers and horrid reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        Morea

        By 1995 yes, in 1975 no.

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          I don’t agree, Morea. Alfa’s U.S. peak was the early- to mid-Sixties.

          David E. Davis Jr.’s 1968 C/D review of the 2002 made BMW a go-to for enthusiasts. The Alfa 1750 Coupe, while pretty, was dated and barely a halfway-reasonable competitor. The Alfa sedan was nothing next to the Bavaria/5-series of the early Seventies.

          For Alfa to be in a real contest with BMW, they would have had to up their game considerably in engine, suspension, styling, fit and finish, marketing, service and dealers. Was such a thing even possible in that tumultuous era of industrialized Italy?

          Of course Sergio Marchionne intends to settle that score. By 2020, FCA will be selling 40K Alfas in the U.S. Won’t he?

          • 0 avatar
            Morea

            “For Alfa to be in a real contest with BMW, they would have had to up their game considerably in engine, suspension, styling, fit and finish…”

            Which they did with the introduction of the transaxle/de Dion platform in 1972.

            BMW went from considering Alfa their rivals in 1975 to considering Lexus and Mercedes to be their rivals in 1995. Thus, the cars went from lightweight and sporty to overweight isolation chambers.

            BMW lost its mojo at this time but at least it remained a viable business; Alfa did not make the transition and faced a near-death experience. We’ll see what the future holds.

  • avatar
    TW5

    *The following has no basis in fact*

    This is what I like to think happened. One day a torpid middle-manage suggested that BMW could lease a hell of a lot of cars if they would just build a rear-wheeldrive Camry. The shareholder, who know virtually nothing about cars, said “Holy sh*t, Todd. That’s the best idea we’ve had since the E30”.

    So BMW endeavored to conquer America with new rear-wheel-drive beige vehicle, but the car people and the marketers were not happy. They wanted BMW to be edgy and unique so they promoted Chris Bangle to give BMW some panache.

    Shortly thereafter, the general public received a Bangled rear-wheel-drive Camry. Car enthusiasts began puking their guts out, and the covetous middle-managers in Corporate America wet themselves with glee.

    The end.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      This is wishful thinking. China has been calling the shots for a while. US BMW drivers were once far more sophisticated than the ones that buy them now, who take their cues from the newest money in the world, in many cases first-time car buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        In defense of the German automakers, international touring car regulations and the DTM variant of international touring car regulations, more or less built the sporting credentials that Germany exploited to their advantage. The FIM Group A regulations for touring cars were particularly vital, since they spawned the 190E and E30 M3 Evo variants.

        Without a motorsports platform to push superfluous mechanical engineering, it was difficult to sell a rwd longitudinally-mounted slant-four with a dog-leg 5-spd manual. That’s when the nouveau-riche customers takeover.

  • avatar
    blueflame6

    If I was running BMW I’d be far more interested in selling to the mass, profitable market than to the tiny group of retro-enthusiasts who speak cryptic production code to each other to keep the newbies away. You may not like the X3 but clearly a lot of people do and BMW exists to make money. Personally, I’d really like a new 2-series.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    You answered this already in your first paragraph. You were a kid, your father wasn’t.

    BMW didn’t change. You did.

    Like Evinx and pch and others have said – car guy age prematurely and wax nostalgic well before their time.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Nobody mentioned exchange rates vs. the dollar. Nobody mentioned the influx of Japanese luxury. Both happened in the mid 1980s. European manufacturers had no choice but to move upmarket or die.

    (Some did both. Peugeot tried moving upmarket, but the USA dealer network couldn’t provide the luxury-car experience these buyers demanded.)

    BMW *had* to provide a luxury car and the corresponding “experience” because the rising Deutschmark forced them to sell cars at Cadillac prices or above.

    At the same time, along comes the Cressida and the Maxima. More challenges for BMW. Tough to compete.

    Yup, I blame global economic changes.

    • 0 avatar
      Gottleib

      you nailed it! return on investment and unit sales determine most if not all that happens in the world of automobiles as well as all products. Driving enthusiasts are a small minority of those that purchase cars. Auto manufacturing requires huge capital investments and those that invest that capital want a market return. An old saying comes to mind, “Sell to the masses and live with the classes, sell to the classes and live with the masses.” In other words you have to invest in products that the most people will buy. In the 1980’s brand value became more important than actual product specification. Those that could create value in their brand became more successful. As pointed out Toyota was a master of this with the creation and success of the Lexus brand, at least in the US. since everyone else has had to play this game to survive. The Germans with their higher labor costs were forced to compete and in time revived the value of their brands by selling to the masses. Hence BMW became more of what it is today than what is once was.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Those conditions explain why they started building more cars in North America, not why their cars started sucking.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Er um well OK! You’re quite the writer Mr DeMuro. Very well done indeed. Never got the vibe from your previous scribblings here, but this is good stuff!

    BMW? Never did know or care too much about them. The best styled one I ever saw was the 3 series 2 door coupe from about a decade ago in burgundy. What E series it is I haven’t a clue, but the matching M3 had a 322hp six. Fair took me breath away.

    The 318i they flogged here in Canada after the 2002, so late 1970s, was an asthmatic little bugger, and the Bavaria really wasn’t all that quick. Both had rotten BMW semi-trailing arm rear suspension, so were completely unpredictable handlers. And that was before it snowed. When did BMW invent that multi-link rear suspension, sometime in the ’90s wasn’t it? That was when BMW finally abandoned treacherous on the limit handling. The Z3 still came originally with the old bad rear suspension, I think.

    I’ve read the 180 comments, and nobody seems to mention that old BMW Achilles heel. So to me, BMW only came good in the 1990s anyway. The good years are from 1995 up to the latest F30 (wow I remembered the nomenclature), with a time out for whatever 5 series they were flogging about 10 years ago. From a distance, it looked like the 2006 Hyundai Sonata, not bad, but anonymous. Got caught out a couple of times.

    I try not to look back on past cars with my rose-colored glasses on, but the abject love for old BMWs as being superstars shown here in the comments, is frankly a load of bunk. Like trying to pretend late ’80s Honda Accords and Civics were great – that was when people first discovered them in huge numbers. Better than a Cavalier or Beretta, Escort or K-car? Sure, but oversprung, underdamped suspensions with 4 inches of travel (as Honda still clings to today) does not a fine car make in the absolute sense.

    Furore, the lifeblood of this or any other site is good stuff. Keep it up!

  • avatar

    In Mount Pleasant, the home to the nouveau rich of Charleston, it is interesting to see what fills up the parking lot of Trader Joes. It’s all Merc’s Porches, Range Rovers etc, you see a fair amount of BMW’s but hardly ever driven by a guy, they arrive in Audi’s, the new cool car. Next door is an independent BMW repair shop, dead as a doornail. The soccer moms lease their X5’s. Even the occupants of the hood will not buy used Beemers any more, with the exception of the older 7 series.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I am not sure BMW’s were ever cool, for me any way. When I was younger they were for yuppies, then they became rep fodder. Now, I am not sure were they fit in. Aside from the 1 series coup that I really like, I can’t get excited about any model. However… BMW’s have a strong following amongst those that own them. I know a few of them and they are all people I like and admire, successful, intelligent people. Perhaps the real question is in trying to understand the mind of an enthusiastic BMW owner.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Once BMW started building cars in South Carolina you knew it was the beginning of the end.

    To those who say BMW us laughing all the way to the bank – so was Cadillac in 1973 as they chased volume.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I never knew BMWs were ever considered cool, or even special until I came to this website. Always saw them as a reliability nightmare, ultra complex upscale VW, the Buick of Germany in a way.

    Also that they age terribly and seem to always end up in the hood with cracked leather seats. They sure do look nice when they’re new though, but one look at a 90s model and I’ve got my fill.

    They’re really playing a risky game, they’ve sold out the enthusiast buyers for mass market, and when your product can’t hold resale values, long held thoughts start being questioned. Badge buyers will move on to the next big thing, and then BMW has a lot of models with fewer consumers.

  • avatar
    swester

    You’ve got to give it to BMW, though, for going out with a Bang(-le?).

    They certainly didn’t experience a slow decline into American soft bleh-ness. At their true creative peak, they created 2 of the incontestably best [attainable] sports vehicles in the history of automobile manufacturing – the E39 M5 and the E38 740i sport – immediately before they blew it all on lousy, bloated designs and computer-controlled numbness.

    Have there been any two other concurrently manufactured cars that sum up the pinnacle of the automobile driving experience than those two? Doubtful.

    Maybe BMW ultimately just realized they would never be able to top what they had created, and there was only one direction to go after that – down.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    In my opinion the E-38 was BMW at its best!
    I can only hope the 7 sensation exists in the newer ones…
    but I doubt it.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    The same for Porsche: money and sales have trumped uniqueness and engineering. Or as so aptly stated, “t was an all-out, no-holds-barred sales-chasing mentality; the kind of mentality Chrysler has with the rental fleets. I think it was this strategy – and not the vehicles themselves – that led to the decline”.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    It was all downhill from here

    http://www.bmwgroup.com/e/0_0_www_bmwgroup_com/forschung_entwicklung/science_club/veroeffentlichte_artikel/2008/news200804.html

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    When they started using fake engine sounds (like a child’s toy), to my mind, they were no longer trying.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I still admire the 3 and 5 series designs, as well as the X5. I would even consider a base 2 or 3 series with sunroof, power seat and XM in the future.

    I think they went way off track when Bangle monsterized the 7. Once they softened that blow some of the styling elements were more acceptable, but the original Bangle 7 was too much. Add in new fangled half baked technology and there you have it.

    I had the pleasure in the late malaise era of briefly owning a 2002tii. Awesome car, especially design and handling-wise. But the injector went out (the car was 4 years old) and my choice was fix it or finish college.
    While it’s only a sample size of one, BMWs have always been more expensive to maintain or repair….

  • avatar
    stingray65

    From the many stories I read here, it seems that BMW purposely designs bloated/unattractive cars that blow up right after the 4 year lease is over, sticking the 2nd owner with huge repair bills. What I don’t understand is how that can be true when the attractive lease rates are based on high resale value at the end of the lease. Resale value is based on expectations regarding remaining years/miles of vehicle life and general vehicle attractiveness, which means if the horror stories regarding used BMWs are true, they should have horrible resale value and very unattractive lease deals. Something doesn’t make sense here. Could it be that perhaps BMW is actually making pretty good cars?

    • 0 avatar

      I think (so that’s my take on things) that it has everything to do with perceived brand value. In other words, the neighbours will be really jealous ’cause you’re driving a recent model BMW. The fact that you die financially or not, has nothing to do with it. You hide it from plain sight.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a really good point, stingray, I’ve often wondered the same thing. In particular, how do they move CPO cars, given the nearly universal wisdom that unless you’re a master BMW mechanic, you do not want to touch a used Bimmer made after 2003 or so.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        CPO cars usually have a warranty bundled into the sale price.

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          I have met too many people saddled with modest incomes and lots of debt buying late-model, off-lease luxury rides they have no business owning because of repair/running costs: Escalades, BMWs, Range Rovers, etc.

          You often wonder “what are they thinking?” and the answer is pretty much the same — make the neighbors envious.

          The fact that they’re going broke trying — and often failing — to keep these fancy sets of wheels running is one of the dirty little secrets of “aspirational marketing.”

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Edge lost 20 years ago? I was a tech working on these stylized pieces of dung. Your dad was a smart man.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Also, it was rumored they were the first company to buy into all the green lies. Hello blown up cooling system due to recycled plastics.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Doug, being in the same generation as you, I had the same experience growing up on BMW. They were the Ultimate Driving Machine, hands down. They were the car you aspired to own as an enthusiast. Every car magazine fawned and jizzed all over their cars. I was fortunate enough to make the first car I bought one of my dream cars from high school and college, an e46 330i zhp. I generally agree with you that there was no single car that was the begining of the end. I think it was a gradual dulling of the blade. At the risk of being sexist, BMW worked very hard to feminize the brand, or make it more appealing to women. This article from autoblog years ago sums it up well:

    http://www.autoblog.com/2011/03/09/opinion-is-bmw-becoming-too-soft/

    “And I think I know what it is. Back in 2006, then- BMW marketing director Jack Pitney (who tragically died in 2010) shared with me a Powerpoint strategy showing how far too many people, in his mind, weren’t considering a BMW because they were intimidated or otherwise put off by the performance image of the brand. It was this finding that led BMW to first do a corporate ad campaign touting BMW’s independent ownership, and then the softer “Joy of Driving” campaign that ran most of last year. It was literally meant to advance a “softer side” of BMW, and attract more people who were not necessarily driving enthusiasts to the brand.”

    The e60 5 series, while still a good driving vehicle, was more complicated, more electronic, and more gadget filled than the e39. I remember Road & Track describing the E39 interior as a “classic BMW. Wood, leather, and a focus on the driver’s needs.” Hardly a modern BMW interior. Car and Driver called the E38 7 series the sports car of its class, especially with the James Bond inspired sport wheel and tire package. Despite it’s size, it was still trim and athletic in both appearance and feel. The E65 is a boat, plain and simple. The E90, while still retaining classic BMW elements, was missing an edge over the e46. I noticed this over the series of many test drives. The e90 felt like it had been softened enough to make it something a sorority girl would be ok driving, with a layer of interaction (and yes noise and feel) between the driver, car, and road filtered out vs the E46. Needless to say, I bought the e46.

    If the above cars were the beginning of a trip towards the cliff, the M badged SUVs were the final trip over. Back when the 4.6is model of the E53 5 series debuted, BMW was asked why no M badge, unlike Mercedes who had an ML55 AMG.

    Road & Track
    http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-reviews/first-drives/bmw-x5-46is
    ” [W]hy didn’t BMW’s new high-performance variant of the X5…receive that most coveted of badges, the Motorsports tricolor?
    As Martin Birkmann, series manager for 5 Series and X vehicles, explains, “It just did not feel right — it did not deliver the right driving experience,” adding that M-badged vehicles are typically rear-drive only, have manual transmissions and have their torque peaks shifted nearer to redline.”
    Car and Driver
    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/bmw-x5-46is-short-take-road-test
    “BMW considered using the M5’s…V-8 but didn’t because of its peaky torque delivery and the fact that no stock slushboxes will handle the power. Hence, no M badge, either.”

    10 years later and BMW has obviously had a change of heart, and they’re laughing all the way to the bank while we the faithful sit here desperately clinging to our e36s, e38s, e39s, and e46s (and trying to afford to keep them running).

  • avatar
    dabossinne

    I think the slide actually started in the early 80s when 3-series mania swept the US, especially the West Coast and Northeast. It was THE aspirational car for Boomer yuppies and DINKs entering their peak earning (or debtor) years. Family Quandt succumbed to the addiction of high volume combined with high profits, and wanted more, more, more. And that’s how it started.

    As for BMW today…I was at our local/regional auto show yesterday and sat in a new 435i (sorry, but I don’t get the 4-series to begin with). While I have no doubt it drives like a BMW should, I found the interior to be cramped and no better in quality – worse, actually, in some respects – than the Mazda 6 I’d just sat in 3 minutes earlier. Lots of hard plastic surfaces that the car mags love to incessantly bitch out, and just not much about it befitting its $60K+ price tag. Pitiful.

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    I believe BMW is a public company. It has shareholders. Shareholders
    want dividends, which are paid out of profits. Profits come from selling
    vehicles (and repair parts). The management of BMW is responsible to the
    shareholders, and is required to keep them happy – shareholders unhappy =
    managers unemployed. Ergo: sell more cars, make more profit, keep
    shareholders happier. Very simple. Besides which, management is
    ethically required to do this. Management is not beholden to the automotive press, who generate few sales anyway. Advertising and
    marketing generate the sales. Whiny articles by the auto enthusiast
    press are likely ignored.

  • avatar
    montethepoodle

    I have an E46 or 2001 330ci. 110k, with auto. Drove the new 435i and my wife thought it not as nice as e46. Specifically the paint and the non bmw sounding engine. Oh yeah 50k is a little too steep for what is essentially a Pebble Beach Pinto.

    435i is way faster and bigger and safer for sure. Not sure what I will get to replace as want as nice a car for wife that is a step up from average car. I am trending to MB.

  • avatar
    makuribu

    In the 80s it was a yuppie mobile.

    By the 90s, Oldsmobile driving orthodontists were hiding their fedoras and buying BMWs to feel “with it”.

    Now it’s just another maker of expensive crossovers.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    For me, it was the Bangle era when there were obvious signs that BMW was losing the plot – at least, the plot as I saw it. BMW’s styling transitioned from the classic to the merely popular or trendy.

    And there as the decision to do away with the oil dipstick in the six-cylinder powerplant in favor of a sensor-activated dashboard light. At that point, I fully realized that BMW no longer made cars for me.

    But I’ll say this: BMW seems to know its own customers very well. Most of the people who already owned BMW’s were getting older and – whether they admitted it or not – were ready for a “softer” car. And most of the people who aspired to a BMW were mainstream vehicle buyers looking for the prestige of the roundel. So BMW provided them with mainstream vehicles featuring the prestigious roundel. For the hard-core, traditional BMW customers there was always the M series if they could afford it.

    All of which is to say that Doug is right: BMW decided chasing sales was the most important thing. But, think about it: Perhaps it was always about chasing sales?

    BMW was close to failure in the late 1950s and early 60s. But it managed to carve out a niche that allowed it to survive and thrive. It worked for some 30 years before the company realized it could do more-better in terms of units sold and earnings per share. And BMW was by then strong enough to enter the big arena. Added bonus: The company may be more resistant to takeover bids as a result.

    So, what is the replacement for BMW as far as enthusiasts are concerned in this, the second decade of the 21st century? Many believe that it’s Audi. But I’m not buying it.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Mid eighties. They came out with a beam axle rear hatchback entry level 4 banger (carburetor) that knocked the shine off the roundell for me. The X5 was icing on a long stale cake.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Oh OK. trailing arm vs multilink. Not as bad as a FWD beam rear, but I was horrified watching them.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @05lgt

        BMW had used that trailing arm rear suspension since the ’60s, and it was exactly the same as what was under the rear end of the much-loved e30 3-series. And the last carbureted BMW sold in the US was the 2002. So I have no idea what you are talking about, and evidently neither do you.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          absolutely guilty as charged. 5 minutes on Wiki and I still couldn’t remember what BMW it was that R&T savaged and I scoffed at in 84. Then I spend another 5 on wiki (admittedly using a small phone screen)and get it wrong again. I’m guessing Wiki had non-US models in there confusing me. Never was a big fan of BMW other than the M1. The few I’ve driven I found “nice” but not special.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      A different direction of thought but it still ends up on the eighties; ’87 with the end if their (successful) participation in F1. The later V10 effort with one win and a million excuses doesn’t count.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Very, very late to a big party, but I’ll throw in my $0.02.

    First, to refute the primary thesis of this article (“BMW has lost its edge”), I have 5 words:

    “M235i, with a manual transmission.”

    Beyond that, there are really two sins BMW has committed of late, and they are endemic to the car industry as a whole:

    1) Overly complicated, something-for-everyone model lineup
    2) Cars that get bloated over time

    For #1, is Porsche any less at fault? It’s the realties of the auto business. They can’t survive just by building cars for enthusiasts. They have to have something for soccer moms and biz execs too. Frankly, I don’t care if BMW builds a souped-up FWD minivan in the years to come, as long as they’re still making cars like the M235i, M2, M3/4 etc. In fact, those other models probably help subsidize the halo cars.

    For #2, that’s been the case for about as long as there’ve been cars. The 3-series is now the size and weight of the old 5-series, etc. Compare a modern Honda Accord to one from the 80s. I remember reading Lee Iacocca’s autobiography back in the 80s, and he was complaining how the Mustang got bloated by the 70s. Car models simply bloat over time, to the point where TTAC could probably run a compelling article on the phenomenon. I think it’s because models are always getter laden with new features, and larger size also becomes a selling point. (“2 inches more leg room than last year’s model!”)

    In fact, a much greater challenge is this: can anyone think of a car model that got smaller and lighter with a new version? I can think of one example: BMW’s new M3/4. They made it lighter (if not smaller) that its predecessor. So it turns out one of the rare example of anti-bloat comes from…BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      skyactiv? Lighter anyway, and it’s rolling across the brand, not just one specialty model.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Lambo has that all carbon fiber special that’s lighter than the original, but that’s more the exception proving the rule. How about the ford F series? Not trucks, but as mainstream as mainstream gets.

    • 0 avatar
      elimgarak

      The current accord is markedly smaller than the one it replaced. I think the weight is about the same.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @healthy skeptic
      the M235i alone cannot save BMW’s reputation. It’s still got EPS, still a turbo, still full of too many gadgets, too expensive, and only available as a two door (it should at least have a sedan variant). It’s an E46 M3 replacement by the numbers, but go back to 2001 and 2002 and BMW was BMW because of way more than just the M3. the entry level 323i was as much the ultimate driving machine as a $70k E39 M5 or a $90k 740i. Also, I think the M3/M4 has lost its previous place of glory with it’s insane price tag, dull steering, and fake engine noise. The M235i is probably the only drivers car BMW still makes.

      to address your points 1 and 2:
      1.) I give Porsche a bit of a pass because while they did offer the Cayenne and Panamera, they’ve generally kept the enthusiast cars just as good as they always were. The Boxster, Cayman, and 911 were not turned into cars that could be confused for SLKs, CLKs, Lexus SCs, or SLs. They’ve remained the drivers cars of their respective segments, at least partially because of…

      2.)…their lack of weight gain.
      (all numbers from Car and Driver)
      e30 M3: 2857 lbs
      e36 M3: 3180 lbs
      e46 M3: 3430 lbs
      e92 M3: 3571 lbs
      M4: 3556 lbs

      Porsche:
      964: 3241
      993: 3116
      996: 3100
      997: 3290
      991: 3250

      Oh, and a 996 Carrera started at $68k in 1999 and 991 Carrera starts at $84.3k, a 25% increase before inflation. $68k in 1999 dollars is equivalent to $96.6k in 2014, so the car is not insubstantially cheaper.
      An e46 M3 started at $47k in 2001 and an M4 starts at $65k, a 38% increase before inflation. That $47k in 2001 dollars is the equivalent to $62k in 2014, so also cheaper, but barely.

      Yes Porsche is the exception, not the rule here, but still, the point is who’s following the herd and who’s trying to stay true to their heritage more? I know turbo 911s are coming, but

      As far as your final question:
      Mazda has been, Jag’s been keeping its weight down with Aluminum, Honda has been (the Civic is still a featherlight 2700 lbs and the Fit 2500), Volkswagen with the new MQB platform…

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    “The US is no longer the only target demo…”

    You do realize the US is the biggest consumer of BMWs, no? That includes Germany. And exactly none of which are taxis, “TJ” or otherwise.

  • avatar

    I think that BMW lost their edge when they realized that they could generate more revenue by LEASING 3Ser models to middle managers who were status-seekers, not driving enthusiasts. That led to softer, more bloated cars and too many models. Of late, per several friends, are horrible, horrible reliability records and cars (BMW twin turbo 5Ser Wagon) that can only use fuel from one specific manufacturer. All that as America gets – um – larger and you get the same trend in vehicle size and softness that is winning unparalleled growth for Subaru (at least their limited model line-up keeps the a car for spirited driving).

  • avatar
    MEngineer

    Interesting question and a lot of great comments.

    Late to the party here too, but for me its when the number of cup holders became more important than the number of manual transmission gears. When electronic dip sticks replaced the real thing. When dealers realized what a cash cow they had. In short, when they took real enthusiasts for granted and became the Ultimate Prestige Machine rather than the Ultimate Driving Machine.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    When the Boss 302 left the M3 looking like The Ultimate Driving Cheeseburger.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Oh it lost its edge sometime during the second Bush administration. They became a check off item on the fashion accessory list. Sunglasses, watch, shoes, car, and phone. Feel free to fill in whatever brand you dislike to cover those items.

  • avatar
    Joss

    BMW could lose it’s way like Volvo. The market evolves. They joined the lucrative crossover/SUV party they didn’t start it. Volvo lost it’s market advantage to increased safety legislation. As for BMW the luxury market has moved on from the pure sports sedan. Now Asia tries for size and old Brit brands re-emerge.

    • 0 avatar
      elimgarak

      The old brit brands are dead sans LR. Aston and Jag are struggling. RR and Bentley are irrelevant due to their volume.

      BMW will be fine, but will disappoint those of us who read TTAC. But they have reached a tier (along with Benz) where they are ‘tbtf’ or should I say ‘tptf’.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Three questions.

    1) Does BMW’s old space exist? The “serious driver’s car” – a little plain, a little expensive, as practical as the rest of the class, high build quality but maybe some long term issues, but very clean-handling and responsive.

    2) If so, who’s best positioned to move into it? Mazda, with an engine-share to get them a 300-hp option? Subaru, with an upmarket model based on the STi?

    3) Are all of the car enthusiasts riding sports motorcycles instead? $5,000 buys you a pretty good Miata, but today I brought home a 2007 CBR1000RR for less. Note that the sports motorcycle market has collapsed recently too – down over 50% from pre-recession sales numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @Chaparral –

      1) yes it does, ultimately unfilled. Nobody makes an enthusiasts aspirational product quite like BMW. from what I’ve ready in the reviews, Lexus or Cadillac could be there, but they’re not as good as old BMW was (lack of manual transmissions doesn’t help)

      2) I’d say really nobody. I would’ve said Infiniti 3 or 4 years ago as the G37 was a top notch 3 series rival, but they’ve lost it too. Mazda’s and Subarus are FWD or AWD and 4 cylinders. 2002 aside, the definitive modern BMW had a delicious normally aspirated six cylinder engine and a balanced RWD chassis. The Subies are still a little too rough around the edges too – my e46, despite its performance package 18″ 35 series tires, is sublime over the bumps. Based on the reviews of the new Mustang, it sounds like the most BMW esp driving car out there, but it’s too small interior limits its practicality, another BMW trademark. The Ford EPS and chassis tuning in the Fusion and Focus are actually really good, so if they’d mate that design to RWD, they could have a chance, but I doubt they’ve any interest in that.

      3) I won’t ride a motorcycle – I’m too much of a chicken. I want my side airbags. Nevermind I need more space. I wish I had bought an e46 wagon instead of a sedan, or at the very least, gotten one with fold down seats.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    The great thing about motorcycles is that one doesn’t even need to buy a hard-core sport cycle – or even to go fast – in order to have blast. A base Triumph Bonneville will do the job. Full disclosure: I have a 2004 BMW R1150R. Does that make me as obnoxious as a BMW car driver?

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Wow. Got a lot of comments I still have to sift through.

    I can’t say for sure when it started, but agree it has. The E90 3 had it. I own one and it’s brilliant.

    Grandfather had, I can’t keep them all straight any more, E39 (1997) 540i. Possibly still the most all-around superb car I’ve ever driven. Then he got a 03 740, and the car was a dog. Good friends had a 96 or 97 740i and it too was nearly as good as that 5. The difference in that short 5 years was staggering. That new 7 was just so mediocre in every way. Soft. Horrid steering. Awful iDrive. I remember the seats stunk too.

    The 5 held on a bit, and the 3 also. But now? Mother had an E90 330i, amazing car, but last year bought her dad’s 11 F10 535i. It’s a beautiful car. Luxurious as can be. But all special feeling that exists in the E90 is completely gone, something she completely agrees with. She also had the new 3 as a loaner last month and stated she wouldn’t buy that car if shopping for a 3 today. Absolutely nothing better than the E90…

    BMW used to be luxury with feel, steering, balance, that nobody else could match. And now I don’t feel any reason to choose BMW over Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, or even Cadillac.

    Can’t pinpoint it exactly, but sure seemed when Bangle showed up the slide really began.

    World changes, business is there to make money, and I think BMW saw € signs everywhere by expanding and softening the cars (I read an article that BMW for example lightened the steering because women drivers would NOT buy the car because of the very heavy low speed steering, but that men would still buy the car even with the lighter wheel) . I know all this dollars and cents stuff, but as someone who grew up in Hondas and since the late 90s until today has spent most time in BMW…. It’s been a painful 15 years. In some ways I feel lost. Those things you aspired to are now gone, and there is other car company you can jump to to find it. Find myself desiring a cushy suv with a Miata for the weekends. The do – all – be-all BMW is dead and I think “now what”

    But the world is littered with brands that became what they did because they offered something different and special, and then later lost what made them great in the pursuit of every last $.

    Some day people will stop and ask” why should I buy a BMW ” and the answer won’t exist and the colorful legacy of some of the greatest cars ever made will be so old that nobody will even remember that either. And then BMW will be in serious trouble.

  • avatar
    DCAggie

    Doug, I own a 2002 E39 that just turned 80k miles and it shares the garage with a 996 and 997 turbo as well as a 996 For the wife (thats how I sold it to her). For sheer smiles the E39 over delivers compared to anything I have ever owned or own.

  • avatar
    v8corvairpickup

    When they started building a “Sports Activity Vehicle.”

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    BMW admitted to it several times in the last few years. The reality is that the cost of developing new platforms is hitting the billions of dollars point. A single-car line maker will not survive in the new economics of the system. Mercedes-Benz has the hidden benefit of being a large commercial truck maker to lift its core profits. Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, Lincoln, Cadillac, and the assorted others are either attached to a major automaker who builds upscale cars on established platforms or is so small that they can afford to play the margins on older platforms or get exemptions for some aspects.

    So BMW had to choose, sell out to Ford (which was apparently seriously considered at one point) OR go big, sell every kind of concoction using the same basic 3 architectures. Thus, to survive they had to go big. To be fair, there cars were great but there were always better cars out there for different people. The hobby journalists combined with the rich boardrooms of America fell in love with the cramped BMW of the 1980s because their dads collectively drove oversized and overwrought Lincolns and Cadillacs. BMW got the benefit of being a good car that got surpassed by their competitors when the competition realized that is what the upper-middle class wanted.

    So, to close, if 1990s BMW met with 2010s BMW they wouldn’t be angry at each other, they would be high-fiving for not being a subsidiary of Toyota or Ford today. They’re still their own business, they have their own platforms, and they’re still controlling their own destiny nostalgia (and much of this article is just that…) be damned.

  • avatar
    Clerps

    I think it was the evolution of BMW front office luxury minded instead of race inspired. As the different generations of BMW came out you would see that they tried to put more luxury in the cars and worried less about handling, weight distribution and power to weight ratio. It use to be build a race car and then lets see how much luxury we can put into it. Now its lets throw all the gadgets and useless shit that people probably wont even use or know about and then try to fit a motor, wheels, suspension and gas tank around it.

  • avatar
    dude500

    Even though enthusiasts hate to admit it, BMW’s move to luxury was the right business decision. BMWs sell better now than when the focus was on sport.

    The only mass-market auto maker that focuses on driving dynamics across its line-up (including SUVs) is Mazda. While it has recently been doing okay, Mazda’s sales pale in comparison with the other guys.

  • avatar
    Eric 0

    Because my dad was cooler than yours, I grew up in a BMW family, and I drive one now, an E39 540i Sport, which is celebrated as one of the last great BMW sport sedans. I love it and I will miss it when it’s gone, the way one might miss a crazy, hot, exotic, and horribly abusive foreign lover.

    But BMW is a public company, with shareholders. The truth is that those cars we remember so fondly were awful by today’s standards. I wouldn’t own one now if you paid me, and I loved them. They had great, though mostly underpowered engines, and fantastic driving dynamics, but they come from a time when all a car needed to be considered “luxury” was to be made in Germany and cost too much. Interiors were made entirely of cheap plastic, and things broke off constantly. The cars were horrifically unreliable. We had one 528 that I know I spent more time under than inside of.

    The truth is these cars swam in a market of unredeemable crap from Detroit, and Japanese economy cars just coming into their own. There was room for “quirky” and “aspirational” brands for yuppies who wanted to seem worldly, and the very few driving enthusiasts who subscribed to Roundel. That market isn’t big enough any more to support an independent car maker.

    This article assumes that profitability and survival are sure things for a niche car brand, but the rotting corpse of Saab, and the gasping-for-air Volvo are cautionary examples of what BMW could easily have become.

    And as weird as some of these new Touring-Coupe-Activity-Truck things are, I drove the new 335iGT and thought it was a fantastic car. Would I miss the immediacy and musicality of the V8 in my 540 if I swapped it for one of these new cars? Maybe a little, but I think I’d get over it when I saw my gas bill.

    For me the true apostasy came not from the turbos, but the change to all run-flat tires in place of spares. With this move BMW declared that a highly practical tradeoff, that made all kinds of economic and safety sense, was more important than the intangible quality of the experience of driving the car, and feeling the road. This signaled a change in what the brand meant far more than the change from NA to turbo. Besides, if turbos on BMWs were such a bad thing, Steve Dinan wouldn’t be a BMW household name. We put a Dinan turbo in a 320i when i was in middle school, and it was bonkers awsome. People complaining about turbos in BMWs must be too young to remember a time when “turbo” meant “much less slow.” and was written on the side of any car that had one in italic caps, to make the point.

    BMW ultimately, like any other company, is beholden to it’s bottom line, its shareholders, and it’s growth potential relative to the market as a whole.
    It has done what it had to do to survive, and has made some masterful cars along the way.

  • avatar
    gaston

    I own an E46 and have driven several other models over the years. This was near the end of good BMW’s. I like the E90 series even though it was a failure for BMW, but the E92 was a disaster. BMW has been imploding on several fronts.

    1. As a car they have never been cheap to buy and have only gotten more expensive to maintain, so failure number one was as maintenance became a non-driver option (hint: removing the dip stick!)
    2. iDrive and the whole let’s move the knobs around in every model to screw with anyone who might want to buy a second BMW. I detest iDrive and my BMW purchasing days are over as long as BMW keeps selling cars with iDrive. Transitioning from the cockpit of an E46 to any newer model BMW is a nightmare. There are a few minor improvements (such as a permanent dashboard clock and temperature gauge) but overall it has been a huge step backwards. Even the cruise control is less intuitive. I had a loaner E92 series while my E46 was in the shop for a week. At the end of the week, I was gradually getting the hang of the setup (except for the forenamed iDrive POS) and was starting to have some positive feelings about the loaner car when I returned it. As soon as I sat down in my familiar E46, I completely forgot about any positives of the E92 and beamed a smile of contentment for being back in my E46. BMW needs to take note of this.
    3. The F**king electronics of the Borg. The most dreaded words to hear from a BMW technician “…we need to replace one of the electronic modules…” It is impossible to have an electronic component serviced at a good third party shop and everything is electronic now. Even worse a BMW electrical problem is at least a $ 500 (more like a kilobuck) repair.
    4. The weight of luxury. BMW engineering when examined by the numbers is squeezing better mileage and better mechanicals out of the car (not reliability). Unfortunately the over engineering is going into adding luxury features, usually more electronic features that breakdown and just add weight to a BMW. There is no reason for an E92 to weigh so much more than the old E46, except for crappy electronic luxury features. If BMW would just make a performance version then it would have a real car (again).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @Gaston

      1. How is maintenance a non-driver option? You push the button on the turn signal stalk, and it tells you the oil level. Why do you need a dipstick? To change the oil, you empty it out, then you dump 7L back in.

      2. I don’t love iDrive either, but it is better than a touchscreen. I don’t find the ergonomics of my e91 to be that much different than the e46, and where it is different, it is an improvement. Every car should the BMW style turn signal lever and cruise control.

      3. These cars are not spaceships. Any decent shop can work on them, and you can work on them yourself. Saab and Volvo require $ubscriptions to the mothership to change out electronic components, BMWs only require some software you can get off the Internet and the right cable to your laptop.

      4. Weight increase is due to safety and refinement, full stop. Electronic add-ons weigh nothing at all. Your e46 is lighter by a bit than an e90, but it is also smaller, noisier, rides worse, and is rather less safe in a crash.

      BMW makes all sorts of performance cars. THP 228i, M235i, M3, M4, M5, M-Sport versions, etc. Even the M versions of the SUVs are ridiculously high-performance, as much as they are just plain ridiculous.

      I LOVED my ’91 318is (I actually had two of them), one of the finest focused sporting sedans ever made by BMW, very much an M3 Jr, but I sure as Heck have no interest in daily driving that loud harsh thing today. Especially at an inflation-adjusted $40K or so.

      If you love your e46 so much, I suggest you take very good care of it and keep it a long time, they are fantastic cars in their own right, but the new ones are better.

      • 0 avatar
        gaston

        @Krhodes1
        When was the last time you changed the oil on a newer BMW without a vacuum pump? Then there is the issue of using the BMW “approved” oil or Mobil-1 or some other oil. I will admit E90 oil “wears” better than E46 oil (using oil analysis from Blackstone E46 oil is good for about 5K miles whereas E90 oil is good for 7500 to 10K miles). That oil sensor is another piece of electronics that breaks and needs calibration. I would feel comfortable arguing that a dipstick is more reliable than a software calibrated oil sensor.

        E46’s don’t have touch screens.

        Don’t get me started on BMW proprietary ODB-II codes. I don’t know many third part suppliers for BMW electronics modules. I’d never put BMW in the same class as Volvo or Saab.

        You call it “refinement” and I call it luxury electronic junk. Instead of that junk BMW could have invested in performance and made more of a driver’s car. Again as the OP asked, this is where BMW goes wrong. If I wanted “refinement”, I’d probably look at a Mercedes or a Lexus.

        Sad to say, I don’t really think of BMW as making street performance cars any more. At the value end of the spectrum, the big three give you a lot more power for your dollar than BMW and at the high end, well there are plenty of nice performance cars at your Maserati, Ferrari, or other six figure dealership.

        Then again as an E91 driver, you’re more about the car seats and 4 cylinder gas mileage. It’s a great soccer Mom car, but not really a “driving machine”.

        You’re absolutely right I’m lucky I have a low mileage E46 and maybe not the last great car from Bavaria, certainly one of the last few before BMW lost its way and focused on things like the “Bangle Butt”.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          @Gaston

          I did the break-in change myself in Sept ’11 on my 328i. There is no need for a vacuum pump, you don’t even have to take the bellypan off as BMW is thoughtful enough to provide a hatch in it to access the drain plug. Otherwise, my car has gotten annual changes on BMWs dime since, with the last one coming up on Friday. The current official change interval is “when the computer says, or 1 year”. Mobil-1 0w40 meets all BMW specs, you can get it at any WalMart. I have also had a Blackstone analysis done, and it indicated that BMW’s computer generated change interval was spot on, I could go 15-16K on this car.

          In 5+ years of frequenting two VERY busy e9x forums, I can only think of one or two people who have had sensor failures. I have replaced more dipsticks than oil sensors in my life, I am not worried about it at all.

          There is no such thing as a 4-cyl e91 in the US, so I don’t know what you are on about. I simply prefer an extra dash of practicality in my daily driver vs. a useless sedan. As a single middle-aged male, there certainly have NEVER been any children in the car. It has gotten autocrossed occasionally, though my Fiat Abarth is more suitable for that. I actually would prefer the N20 4-cylinder turbo in my car – it is both more powerful and notably more efficient. But as it sits it is fast, quiet, and thoroughly enjoyable.

          If you enjoy a hairshirt experience, more power to you. If I want to drive something basic, I have a 41yo Triumph Spitfire in the garage. Good fun for the ~1000 miles a year that I drive it.

          And if you don’t think BMW still makes a driver’s car, I strongly suggest you test drive a 2-series. I am counting the days until I fly to Munich to pick up my new M235i. Keeping the wagon though, it’s brilliant too.

          There is a guy like you on the e90 forum. Wrecked his e46, bought an e90 to replace it. All he does is whine about every little thing that is different from his old car, heaven forbid. Though as time goes on, he is grudgingly admitting that overall the new car is better. Time marches on, you have to roll with it. Or buy something else, BMW certainly doesn’t need your money.

  • avatar
    hawox

    time changes things.
    back in the day every single bmw was a driver’s car, today driving is the less important thing in a car. i tested base model of the modern 1 and 3 series, the x3…. they are hopeless. cars made to sell big numbers and make big profits. all sort of people pay a premium price on them because of brand image.

    old bmws were simple and reliable, made a fame on fun factor, so they used to cost more than competition.

    same as mercedes: once were much more reliable than average so they were crazy expensive. then other makers started to increase quality so mercedes had to fill cars with fancy accessories, and build 8049827 different models.

  • avatar
    tiitouring

    IMHO the author is correct – although I would have said the late 80’s as being the pinnacle – the 533/535, 325is/M3, M5/M6 these were all cars that, to me, embodied what BMW was about. Drivers cars, that offered performance, best in class driving experience, and luxury refinement. I remember the day my dad brought the first e28 533 home from work. Anthracite Grey/ black cloth, 5 speed. I couldn’t wait to go for a ride in it after dinner. It sounded so mean compared to the 528e, and man did it go! How cool, a 4 door sedan that was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    But, companies are beholden to the bottom line. The mantra beat into everyone’s heads are: Increase Sales, Reduce costs. Don’t get me wrong, BMW has built some very nice cars, with breathtaking performance, but I feel that everything after the early 90’s has been some diluted version of the original. Look at the evolution of the M3. The e30 was a café racer – it was a racing car modified to be used on the street. Every version of the car since has diluted that formula. I think it’s safe to say that today the M4 is street car that people modify for racing. The new M5 doesn’t sound nice enough mechanically, so it has an electronic sound track for heaven’s sake. To me, that’s a clear indicator that the company’s DNA has forever changed.

    Realistically, BMW is chasing volume sales – not the enthusiast car owner. In it’s effort to reduce costs, BMW has ended up making cars that are great…as long as they’re under warranty. Look at all the quality problems that the more modern cars face – cooling systems that need to be replaced every 80,000mi. Subframe mounts ripping out of bodies. Coolant leaks in the middle of the engines that require taking half the engine apart to replace an o-ring. PCV systems that fail and hydro lock motors, Plastic water pump impellers, broken springs. My boss just replaced the alternator on his F02 7 series – $1900. A friend of mine runs a small BMW repair shop in Canada, he sees it every day. Modern cars with under 60,000 mi with a whole host of mechanical and electronic maladies. People bring in e65 7 series cars, and the dash is lit up like a Christmas Tree. By the time he’s diagnosed all the issues the customer is staring at an estimate for 6-7K for a car that’s worth 5 at best. People just limp them home, and park them in their driveways to rot.

    Just sayin.

    Ironically, I flipped through the latest Roundel last night, and realized there was a lot less content that was relevant to me then ever before. Then, as I was on the way into the office this morning, I passed a guy driving an M235i. As I looked at the car, I thought to myself. “ Yeah, im sure it’s a bunch of car, but i just cant get passionately excited about it or anything else in the BMW lineup anymore.

    As one who grew up washing new BMW’s at the family dealership back in the day, it was a sad epiphany.

  • avatar
    I_Like_Pie

    2 Words —> CHRIS BANGLE

    This one is simple enough that I am surprised that it is even a discussion.

    BMW dove off the cliff when they hired this guy – Stylistically as well as their corporate focus on being the most driven luxury car in the world. At that moment the performance focus was forever lost and BMW was no more

    • 0 avatar
      BrunoT

      I have to admit, things really did start changing about then, didn’t they? Two E39’s taught me what a car could do in terms of handling, refinement, and confidence on twisty roads. Nothing I’ve driven since has been like those.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    When they stopped dropping their radial 801s in the Luftewaffe’s Focke-Wulf 190?

  • avatar
    joeb-z

    When a performance brand uses run flat tires. Yuk. Please do not point to other performance cars that use them either. Yuk.

  • avatar
    mdh

    My relationship with BMW began with a new 1988 M3 and returned for a flurry of cars from the mid 90’s through mid 00’s. 3-Series, a handful of E39’s, X3, X5, Z3, M Roadster and others. Until I read this article I hadn’t thought about how the brand had diminished to me… although, the “bloat” was obvious. For me, it’s all summed up in a few experiences:

    High: E39 M5 — I owned that car twice (an ’00 and ’03) Probably my favorite car ever. Literally perfect.

    Low #1: E65 740 — I wanted to like it so badly. Really bad.

    Low #2: E60 M5 — I think this car was more disappointing than the E65. I bought mine with the horrible SMG transmission before the 6-speed came out. This car had no soul… and watching the gas gauge drop almost in real time wasn’t literally comical.

    Sad.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    @ Domestic Hearse – That or when the Merlin 61 came out.

  • avatar
    bmrfan

    Everyone finds it easy to say BMW is failing or this or that but the fact is they still make cars that will be popular on the enthusiast market, they have always made cars that nobody wanted and their sales figures are increasing by huge numbers every year.

    Wait until the new M2 comes out, which is now 100% confirmed… then say BMW doesn’t make anything good anymore. People are afraid of change, but want everyone to protect the environment and get 40mpg. They can’t do that with N/A engines and these same people who want 40mpg complain of turbo engines…

    BMW cant win everywhere so they do the best they can in catering to the people who buy their cars new. They have no reason to cater to those who buy used because it doesnt affect their pocketbook. BMW sales are better than benz and audi, maybe BMW is the lesser of three evils to these naysayers but either way they must be doing something right

  • avatar

    The e46, sport, was the promise (sans horsepower)
    The e90 M3 fulfilled the promise (e46 with a smallblock)
    I had seat time in the e90 320d as well. It was all good.

    The F series isn’t for “us”, it is for all the lessors, style whores, and image folks out there. Way more of them. BMW learned when the e 46 m3 became an early lease return headache that lots of folks buying the fantasy don’t want the chassis that goes with it, and really wants cushy and soft. These buyers can afford to get out of cars, unlike the guy with 72 months on a Kia.
    I apologize in advance to the guy or girl who special ordered the car with manual, sport…you are the exception.
    I will admit that the 2 series has the secret sauce of the above cars….but that it is wholly missing from the F series…..

    You can’t blame them for following the money, but the purpose anyone bought these is because they are good….now, as it was said to me…

    Which BMW do you have ?
    Oh, (shyly), the cheap one.
    Car in question was an e90 328.

    At this point, if I won the lottery, I’d find an e90 M3, sedan, stick, in eggplant.

  • avatar
    BrunoT

    Not a word in your column about the loss of steering feel and the advent of greater body roll? That’s the problem. They can sell all the oddball coupe SUV’s they want if the steering feels great and the cars handle.

  • avatar
    focal

    owning a F30 328i RWD 6MT with factory M Performance suspension/exhaust has added a lot of the old time BMW magic. The engine is peppy, the exhaust helps the sounds and pretty smooth efficient for a 2.0L turbo. Perfect as a daily driver. I don’t complain too much about the engine. I’m one of those that knew BMW was getting softer so just spec’d it the way I wanted with their over the counter parts. Something most enthusiast should do. The lessors will just take the car as is.

    Don’t blame BMW only, buyers are looking for a soft ride, huge powerful engines and AWD. Driving skills are also lacking in the buyers. Buyers don’t cruise, know their cars, drive MT nor work on their cars. There’s no track racing, just stop light blasts from 0-60

    But 5 minutes in the our E46 330xi and that steering magic is definitely missing in the current F30. As a daily driver though, the F30 is perfect for my aging needs. UNTIL……

    My Porsche GT4 arrives. Now this is old school sports car; N.A. engine 6 cylinder engine with sport suspension, wicked body bits and row your own gear manual transmission.

    Don’t get me started on how soft the F10 5 series is.

  • avatar
    orange260z

    The 2006 (E90) 330i I had from 2007-2011 was, overall, the nicest car I’ve ever had. Beautiful styling, a sweet NA straight six, a great quality (if a bit spartan) interior, enough power while delivering excellent fuel economy. Not too big, not too small in size, for me it was “just right”.

    Why do I no longer have it? Repairs while still under warranty scared the crap out of me too much to keep it once out of warranty. The car was too complex, too computerized for myself or most indy shops in my area to work on, and I would have been dependent on the dealer for most repairs. What was also aggravating was that my dealer seemed to have a two-visit approach to every issue – one to diagnose, a second to repair. It was a constant fight to get in promptly for service, and to get a loaner car (even though they were charging me for it). The dealer assured me that amount/frequency of warranty claims I experienced was normal, and suggested that I should replace my car with a new one.

    Instead, I replaced my car with an OLD one – I bought a 2005 (E46) 330ci M Sport. A much simpler car, I can do most of the maintenance and repairs on it myself. I do miss the power of the E90 330 motor, but otherwise love my E46. I don’t know that I would consider a new BMW unless I was in the market for a lease.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You bought the very first year of an all new car (that was a major leap forward technically) and were surprised that:

      A. You had issues with it
      B. Nobody knew how to fix it yet

      ROFL!

      My 2011 E91 328i has been nearly flawless. One seat relay replaced and one leaky headlight washer fixed in four years. Five years is an eternity in the automotive world. I know the Camry crowd will find this level of unreliability unacceptable, but f’em.

      It’s great that you can DIY your e46 (also a great car), you will likely be doing more of it in the long run than I will on my e91.

      • 0 avatar
        orange260z

        krhodes1, I find your tone quite condescending. If you actually took the time to read my post, you’d notice the following –

        (1) I owned the car until 2011 – plenty of time for independents to get up and running maintaining/repairing E90s. They didn’t do so because of the very expensive proprietary computer system/software require to do many simple maintenance items on the car, such as replace the battery. 4 years later, they still don’t have the systems due to the volume of business they’d require to amortize that cost effectively. I know that you can get pirated software, etc; but it would be very risky for a business to operate that way.

        (2) even by 2011, all repairs to the car required two visits to the dealer (scheduled maintenance would be done in one visit, by appointment two weeks or more in advance). This is an unacceptable practice that the dealer uses to reduce the amount of inventory he carries, but at great inconvenience to the customer. I have only experienced this with premium German marques, never with Japanese, Korean or American. And the 3 series is BMWs bread & butter car, and the issue isn’t limited to E90 330-specific parts. In fact, they have the same issue with E46 parts, in which case I just order online delivered to my house for less money.

        When I bought my E46, two BMW dealer service managers and an independent BMW repair shop suggested that modern BMWs are designed to be leased, and to “last” the life of a typical lease. They both advised strongly against an out-of-warranty “modern” BMW, particularly E90/91. Their comments to me suggest that your experience is atypical; I am going by their comments as I don’t have several other E90s I have personally experienced life with.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I did read your post, my tone was intentionally condescending, because you are being silly.

          I have owned a broad spectrum of cars – every dealer operates in this way, as none of them can possibly inventory every possible part for every model. There is nothing particularly amazingly computerized about an e9x BMW. It is no different than any other modern car in its class. Many, Saabs and Volvos for example, are MUCH more tied to the dealership. BMW at least does not encrypt anything or require “security access” to change out modules in the car. A good indy mechanic will have the appropriate tools to work on the electronics of the car at this point. *I* have the tools to do almost anything necessary to my car at this point – there’s even an Android app that will do most of the electronic programming now. Even the dreaded battery registration.

          You sold your car JUST as there were enough of them out of warranty for the DIY and indy mechanic communities to come up to speed on them. Nobody invests in learning to fix cars that are mostly under warranty and free maintenance. Four years later, they are every bit as well supported as your e46. And time is proving them rather more reliable over the long run, at least in the case of the non-turbos, with the later cars being much better than the earlier ones, as usual. The F3X cars are proving more reliable still – they had an impressively smooth launch, for all the whining about the steering feel.

          Finally – surprise – employees at a BMW dealer want you to buy a new BMW and not keep your old one. Compared to the depreciation on a new one, repairs and maintenance on an out-of-warranty BMW are trivial. Though the LAST place I would ever go to get mine fixed if I am paying for it is the dealership. I don’t like their cappuccino that much, and I don’t need a loaner. My car will never darken their door again once the warranty is up in July.

  • avatar
    shadow mozes

    Eh, BMW’s have always been snoozers to me. The only cars I like from them were the ones they made back in the 1st half of the 20th century.

  • avatar
    ejwu

    BMW is just fine. The problem is modern technology enabled other companies to make good cars, and made BMW a lot less unique.

  • avatar
    Fuad

    …from “desirable and stealthy” to “enormous and anonymous.” I think this is a concise and precise description of the current affairs. For me BMW became different (in a negative sense) with the launch of E65 then E90, E63. The only exception was probably E60. The worse part of all this mess is that it perfectly works for BMW from perspective of profit making. Hence we live in a time when BMW is being tested; does it succumb to marketing or does it work harder to make cool and selling cars. Let’s wait and see the next 5 series, Z. btw exterior of new 7 series is ……….((( (you got my point)….


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