By on April 26, 2017

bmw grille

As vehicle sales growth gradually cools off, BMW has found itself continuing to lose ground to its competitors — but it wasn’t always this way. The company spent years as the luxury brand par excellence before seeing the likes of Jaguar, Tesla, and historic rival Mercedes-Benz begin syphoning off its consumer base.

It looked to be in denial for some time, but it is now evident that Bayerische Motoren Werke has become painfully aware of its own shortcomings. The company has even begun holding employee rallies to address its problems and potentially scare the crap out of workers. Since January, the German automaker has taken its marketing team, factory managers, 14,000 engineers, and a portion of its general workforce through day-long events that illustrate just how far it has fallen.  

Attending one of the rallies, Bloomberg highlighted just how consequential the rhetoric used was. “We’re in the midst of an electric assault,” said one of the event’s presenters amidst a slideshow of BMW’s rivals. “This must be taken very seriously.”

The point, it seems, is to instill fear in the company’s employees while inspiring ways to cope with the fast-changing automotive landscape. BMW isn’t in the doghouse yet and still knows how to turn a profit, but has also become keenly aware of the turning technological tide. No automaker wants to be left behind, especially not one that spent so many years on top.

The rallies aren’t solely used for intimidation, however. The employees are also placed into workshops where they can discuss emerging technologies like car-sharing, battery implementation, and autonomous technologies — basically, everything currently hyped as “the next big thing.” BMW gives them the opportunity to closely examine concept vehicles that make use of unusual features. While some of these are difficult to imagine in the real world — like a Mini that changes colors to match the drivers current mood — others offer unique solutions to more practical problems. But the point isn’t to be realistic, it’s to get to get employees coming up with their own ideas and providing a starting point for collaboration.

“It’s easy to fall into a closed way of thinking,” says Jutta Schwerdtle, a session leader who works in BMW’s market research. “This helps push people out of that.”

Fresh ideas are something the automaker is in desperate need of, too. BMW has wasted years chasing sales, instead of continuing the tradition of raising the automotive bar. It has also lost some of its best designers and most of its innovative engineers after sitting on its laurels for so long. Roughly a year ago, the brand’s core development team for the i3 and i8 electric vehicle lineup left the company for Future Mobility Corp, a Chinese startup backed by Tencent Holdings.

When your best abandon you for a Chinese automotive startup, you realize something must be terribly, terribly wrong.

“BMW has lost its leadership in innovation,” explained Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt. “It’s not brave enough to get into pioneering projects and do something really new.”

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91 Comments on “BMW Acknowledges It Is ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ No Longer, Holds Rallies to Scare Employees...”


  • avatar
    derekson

    The problem isn’t that the cars are no longer driver’s cars per se, since most buyers don’t drive them that hard, but the cars simply lack any personality of being a BMW (which tended to go hand in hand with it being a driver’s car). They’re just an inferior Mercedes now.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      S******* on the enthusiast is going to have huge consequences for companies like BMW and Honda, whose brands enthusiasts built. Actually, Honda is starting to realize its mistake and trying to take corrective action. We will see what BMW does.

      • 0 avatar
        tnk479

        @Superdessucke, sorry but did I miss some announcement from Honda? What exactly is Honda doing to win back enthusiasts? Adding giant fake air vents on the back of the Civic hatchback? The new Civic Si which is a front wheel drive car with 205 whole horsepower? Goodness, what a performance machine!

        How about Honda put the MX-5 to shame with a 250 hp RWD two door sports coupe? Subaru/Toyota and Mazda are selling “sports cars” that are slower than family sedans and then wondering why no one buys.

        • 0 avatar
          Charliej

          BMW has regressed to being a poser mobile. It has the name that posers want, but no longer has to handling and performance to go with the name. BMW has become like Harley Davidson. Harleys are loud and attract attention. Harley riders are posers who want people to think that they are bad. Serious riders ride something a lot quieter and a lot lighter and a lot faster. BMW drivers and Harley riders are the same in that they want to be noticed. Serious riders and drivers want speed and performance with out being noticed. Especially by the law.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          @tnk – Taking anything I can get here but at least they still offer the Accord with the manual and I think the Civic is a good base that, love it or hate it, is not designed to the CUV jelly bean crowd.

          You are right, it ain’t much and they could do better. We’ll see how the new Civic Si and Type-R turn out. But at least there’s some sliver of hope. I don’t really see that with BMW.

          Of course some say enthusiast don’t matter but why is BMW struggling then? It’s not iDrives which are too confusing. It’s that they’ve gotten away from their core values to sell out to the masses.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Honda will have officially lost the plot for good if they yank the V6 from the upcoming Accord.

            If that happens, hopefully there’s a stick option on the coupe, for those who want it.

            Of course I can’t drive a stick anyway, like four doors so I can get out of the car in tight spots, and can’t stand gerbil wheels over superior NA motors, so if Honda sacrifices itself on the altar of “greenie-weenie,” this 25-year Honda fanboi may look to Toyota for my next vehicle, saying that “Honda left me” to all who will listen.

        • 0 avatar

          Have you been living in a box? Ever hear of the Type-R and its record setting ‘ring lap?

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Enthusiasts” love to talk about how important they are yet fail to realize how little they actually matter.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        “S******* on the enthusiast is going to have huge consequences..”

        You’ll be sorry you ever crossed the Men Who Stare at Goats, fagolas!

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      For all the folks who traded in their BMWs on something else, it’s now “The Penultimate Driving Machine!”

      (look it up!)

      • 0 avatar
        True_Blue

        The Ultimate Driveway Machine.
        For people that want to appear fashionable, bleeding-edge, and in-the-know, but really should have spent the lease downpayment on an E-class.
        A grand lawn ornament.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Tesla made us do it.
    Mercedes made us do it.
    Jaguar made us do it.

    Who willingly gave up being the ultimate driving machine again?

    “everything currently hyped as “the next big thing.”

    Does Johann de Nysschen run this company too?

    ““BMW has lost its leadership in innovation,” explained Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt. “It’s not brave enough to get into pioneering projects and do something really new.””

    Let’s go Diesel! Wait…

    • 0 avatar
      Adam_

      Well not very much waiting in this one. It’s just humblebragging.

      http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/bmw/5-series/99295/bmw-m550d-xdrive-revealed-with-four-turbos

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      There was always a contingent within BMW that wanted nothing to do with driving enthusiasm. They wanted to position the brand to match model-for-model with Mercedes-Benz, although they never seemed to know what that meant while Germany was partitioned and Mercedes-Benz built excellent cars. Sadly, that confused bunch of scrotums won out decades ago.

  • avatar
    baconator

    Totally this. The M-cars are an exception, but most of their bread-and-butter lineup are just less-reliable Mercedes clones that look angry and ride badly. At this point, Mercedes seems to command a noticeable price premium in each segment, too.

  • avatar

    Didn’t they change their tagline in 2013 to “Designed For Driving Pleasure”?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’d suggest these training sessions (“rallies”, really?) aren’t meant to scare or intimidate, but rather to motivate people to excellence and innovation.

    There must be something deeper going on, for the i3/i8 team to have left. Those were both very innovative, pioneering projects, and the development team should feel good about them. There has been talk of a pending i5, which would fit nicely into the portfolio in the CUV segment, but it’s not due until 2021 (!).

    Perhaps the team felt the mountaintop experience wouldn’t happen again for toooo long. Perhaps Tencent Holdings showed them a lot of money. Perhaps they didn’t feel sufficiently recognized for the i3/i8 accomplishment.

    Honestly, neither the i3 or i8 can help BMW fight the EV battle. The i3 has great driving dynamics, but the optional REX range extender has serious performance problems, the BEV version’s range is too short, the car is cramped inside, and it’s very expensive. But it’s still a great engineering feat.

    The i8 is awesome, but its flamboyant design and price make a statement most car buyers don’t want to make. For the same (or less) money, a Model S has much more utility, and will dust the i8 at a red light. But again, the development team produced a great car that most car mfrs won’t even consider.

    IMO, BMW needs the i5 much sooner than 2021. Perhaps that late date is because their development team quit? BMW also has to decide whether they want to lose money on EVs or not. If the answer is yes, then they need to focus more on the *rest* of the lineup.

    FWIW, the Model S outsells BMW’s entire i-Series, the 7-Series, and the 6-Series combined.

    It’s a tough spot to be in.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I wonder what their answer to the Mission-E will be? Will they match its 800v super-quick charging and it’s styling? My issue with the i8 is that it’s a hybrid. I want a pure electric. Go to Rimac for a 4-motor independent wheel drive arrangement and I’d be very interested.

      With the 2018 Leaf coming onto the scene, the i3 is the Old Yeller of EVs and needs to be put out of its misery. Maybe if they could stretch it and give it range in the upper 200’s along with the new super-quick charging, it could survive.

    • 0 avatar
      Giskard

      I think you hit the nail on the head here – the i3 and i8 are definitely the most interesting challengers to the Tesla “threat” (at least to me). However, they decided to “stop” for some reason. If the i5 were available now and could compete tow-to-tow with the Model 3 they would be in a much better position. 2021 is way too late. We’ll have to see what they have to say in September when the refreshed i3 is due to be announced (hopefully with a compelling i3s “hot hatch” variant and maybe a peak at a future i5).

      Electric cars notwithstanding, I think they still have some nice drivers cars. In particular, the M3-5 and the 2 series. They do need to get their reliability under control, though.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Oh Lordy, what is BMW to do? The i3 is as visually challenging as a Chevy Spark. An IS “F” whatever is close enough for most people when maintenance costs are considered. Since they’re doing SUV’s, a brick on stilts is still a brick on stilts; where is Lederhosen heated/cooled leather seat quad-cab F-150 competitor? What happened to the Z cars? I’m ready for a red one and a mid-life crisis.

  • avatar
    Adam_

    This reads like it’s cobbled together from a press statement. Whatever. I think they should follow the Wolfsburg Motivation Method. It worked so well for them. Who cares if they are not the ultimate driving machine. Its only a slogan they thought up themselves. As long as the punters think its better than anything else, then we are fine. They are producing some well regarded electric models. So really, where’s the story?

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    You see this in a lot of companies who finally look up and realize they’ve been coasting for years. Navel gazing. I guess a certain amount of self examination is healthy, but at some point, why don’t you go find those customers who used to drive your cars, and ask THEM why they don’t any longer? Duh.

    I never cease to be amazed at how companies don’t seem to be able to answer a simple, critical question: “Why do you buy our products?” IMO, BMW used to offer in almost every car, a bit of the same authentic feeling you get in the M-car. Yes, the average customer might not understand or use the capability, but they felt they were getting a part of something special. I remember the feeling of an E30; solid, simple, stylish, somehow Teutonic. My E46 didn’t have power butt air conditioning, but what it had still felt different from everything else out there.
    I think BMW tried to come up with something that felt that way with the one series, but when you start making exactly the same decisions you’ve made with your previous designs, you end up at the same (price) point.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      I had a 1981 318 (no i), euro spec in Germany for 4 years. Simple, reliable and handled great. Cloth seats, roll up windows, had-cranked sunroof and 4 on the floor.

      Very simple, beautifully put together, not very quick but drove incredibly with damn near perfect steering….I so miss that car.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Well, duh. Peter De Lorenzo in The Autoextremist made this point sometime back, after BMW announced it was all in on autonomous vehicles. Also, FWD vehicles like the X1? Definitely not The Ultimate Driving Machine.

    My wife and and I were recently watching the Albert Brooks comedy, “Defending Your Life”, released in 1991. One of the first scenes is at a BMW dealer, where Brooks is picking up an E30 convertible, his birthday present to himself. No SUVs on that lot!

    • 0 avatar
      SD 328I

      You realize the only vehicles they are are selling more of are their SUVs right? Their sedans are in the dumpster, like most other sedans.

      BMW had too much of a sedan vs crossover ratio, which is hurting them now.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        Looks like Acura isn’t far behind. It takes, what, 7-10 years for a new model to make it to market? Acura has but two of the currently-desirable body styles available, I believe: the RDX and the MDX. That’s like chocolate or vanilla to a Rainbow Sherbet connoisseur crowd.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Yup, and when the CUV craze wears off their brand will severely damaged. This is a double edged sword, especially for a company like BMW, which depends on enthusiasts. Piss them off and you are killing the Golden Goose which built you.

        At car shows, the BMW CCA has all kinds of little sub classes. Until you get to 1995. Then, everything from 1995 to present is just “Modern.” There’s a good reason for that.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        SD 328I

        Yeah, that’s the point. They’re going after volume, which is okay, if that’s what they want to do.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s worth noting that if BMW didn’t sell SUVs, they would be a dead brand walking at this point.

      But you’re not wrong about the X1. They have to sell SUVs, but they don’t have to sell shitty ones.

      #ripgen1x1

  • avatar
    DrSandman

    The cultivated image is part of the problem – the wife vetoed BMW b/c she only ever sees drivers be ash-holes.

    Correlation isn’t causation, I say to no avail. But I love her, so I let her be irrational about this one thing. There’s lots of other cars… saaayyy… is that a Jaaag over there?

    Plus, the cost to insure BMW with my nearly 30 year spotless (no tix, claims, or accidents) record is about double the cost to insure anything else comparable I checked.

    BMW is where GM was in 1984. No pipeline, they haven’t cared in years, and a complete loss of focus on mission. (3-sedan, GT, wagon, 4-coupe, Gran-Coupe, hardtop, and X3? Pick one or two please…)

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    BMW honestly just needs to make an X7. The X5 is too small to go head to head with the GLS.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    “Ultimate driving machine” is not the way to sales success. Few people ever cared, and even fewer care today.

    But BMW is losing the plot on some things that *are* essential to sales success. Mercedes interiors (except CLA) and Audi interiors are both killing BMW’s. Turbo four motors are powerful and efficient, but not as refined as Audi’s.
    Basic features are only available as part of expensive packages. Leases are not as heavily subsidized as they used to be. Reliability remains badly subpar throughout the larger cars in the lineup, even as both Mercedes and Audi improve.

  • avatar
    glwillia

    I currently own two BMWs, an e39 and an e46 (both manuals with the sport package). When I drove cars like mine new, I had a huge grin on my face and knew I’d own one someday. When I test drove an f10 and f30, there was no grin, no gotta-have-it, just a feeling of “yeah, I guess I wouldn’t mind driving this every day”. There’s no compelling logical or emotional reason to own a new BMW any more, except for the 2-series.

    • 0 avatar

      My e46 sport package called to agree with you. I am amazed that the steering in an F30 I drove recently is so bad. (cries, shakes fist at heaven) “how could you….HOW COULD YOU !!!!”

      I recently drove an M240i, and it had the track pack with rim protector low profile tires. The secret sauce still exists…but isn’t used in the mass market cars. Driving the last 5 and the current 5, all very nice but not sport…

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    There’s still a decent chunk of the market that won’t consider their vehicles because of their reputation for needing expensive work once the warranty’s up. Focus on that. The reliable premium brands are far from perfect, so there’d be plenty of opportunities for conquests.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    BMW has two problems.

    One- the next generation of millenials don’t care about cars like their parents did. For decades BMW’s traded on their status. When Munich screwed the pooch by making defective and unreliable cars (see Gen 1 X5, M-engine rod bearing problems, failing subframes, etc) their status as “The Ultimate Status Machine” saw them through.

    What happens when the next generation of successful car buyers doesn’t care about anything BMW stood for? Motorsport cred is worthless in the modern luxury scene. Making a faster M isn’t a long term recipe for success,not when crossovers and premium electric cars are the future.

    Two- years of making unreliable crap and burying it under Teutonic arrogance is playing catch up. Folks who grew up in the 90s and 00s and saw their relatives ,friends and loved ones Bimmers break down constantly are making different purchasing decisions themselves. Worse ,the kind of folks who DO value a vehicles handling are the ones most likely to duck out on a BMW due to crappy reliability.

    Look at Tesla. Their product is cool,cutting edge,and environmentally friendly. No BMW made in recent memory has all three traits in the same product. That said, kudos to the Munich management team for realizing they’re off the ball.

    • 0 avatar
      drachenfels

      This. Building ugly unreliable overpriced lead sleds. Apparently, their management has bought into the GM management thought process.

      If they stick with “Freude am Fahren”, they would dump a lot of the baggage that is dragging them down. How about a modern interpretation of the E30, rather than all the crap they are trying to push on the public?

      sigh. not gonna happen.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    BMW deserves every bad thing that happens to the company. If you look at their behavior in the past they are the very model of corporate evil. Over fifty years ago, the Borgward auto empire was destroyed by BMW spreading rumors that they were insolvent and could not pay the bills. BMW’s renaissance was provided, in part, by cars designed by former Borgward engineers poached by BMW. Or look at the fate of Glas automobiles. Glas was a fast rising young company that was making cars that competed with BMW. In some cases their cars were better than BMW. BMW bought enough shares of Glas stock to get a board member on the Glas board of directors. He agitated that Glas was not able to meet demands due to not being well enough capitalized. BMW bought enough shares of Glas and forced them into receivership. BMW ended up with the Glas factories and engineers. The former Glass factory is still one of BMW’s top factories. As a final note, Google the Quandt family, who run BMW and read of their history. As I said at the beginning, BMW deserves every bad thing that can happen to them.

  • avatar
    uofsc93

    It must have been 8 years ago when I had an M5 and was receiving the BMW magazine you get for owning one of their cars. Whomever was the CEO at the time was talking all kinds of smack against electric car technology, but it in a really stupid and arrogant way. Something along the lines of BMW will not be going down that road etc etc etc, I bet Wolfgang is kicking himself now.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    *clears throat*

    CATERING TO ENTHUSIASTS DOES NOT WORK.

    It didn’t work/isn’t working for:

    Mazda
    Lotus
    Porsche
    Mitsubishi
    Pontiac

    Etc. etc. BMW is no exception. Admittedly, non-Sport package BMWs drive like shite, needlessly, and that is IMO an easy fix. But where BMW really needs to put its money is in content and build quality. I rented and test drove a slew of cars over the last 12 months, including an F30 328i and an E60 535i sport… you would think they were built by different companies. And to add insult to injury, the Accord LX rental I got had a LOT of equipment the non-stripper ~$50K 328i didn’t. Interior quality was the same. And it had better driving dynamics. What the hell is going on at BMW?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Very good point.

      Nobody cares about Mazda’s great driving dynamics. The Wankel didn’t help their reputation.
      Lotus is always broke, and is stuck on the letter “E”.
      Porsche is printing money today via SUVs.
      Mitsubishi approached ricer tuner league, a very niche market.
      Pontiac’s gone, but its performance cars were really just halos for 6000LEs.

  • avatar
    cdrmike

    Could someone enlighten me on the downfall? The last BMW that I owned was an E36 and it was a great car. I bought it for pennies from a friend, and I had no pre-conceived notions about BMWs, except that they were probably overpriced. It was a fantastic driving ride. So, what has happened to them in the past two decades? How do today’s BMWs compare and why do they get such a bad rap now? Stick to the mechanical, not the philosophical please.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      – Steering feel: vanished.
      – Suspension: softened dramatically unless you get rare M Sport or sport suspension packages.
      – Brilliant inline sixes in almost all smaller cars replaced by a succession of powerful but loud and horribly dull turbo fours.
      – Manual transmission steadily disappearing from more and more products.
      – Terrible reliability in all larger cars since the E65 7-Series. The E65’s successor, the F01, had variants spread throughout the lineup and now has infected the 5 Series, 6 Series, X5, X6, and all their variants with its bad reliability record.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “– Steering feel: vanished.
        – Suspension: softened dramatically unless you get rare M Sport or sport suspension packages.
        – Brilliant inline sixes in almost all smaller cars replaced by a succession of powerful but loud and horribly dull turbo fours.
        – Manual transmission steadily disappearing from more and more products.
        – Terrible reliability in all larger cars since the E65 7-Series. The E65’s successor, the F01, had variants spread throughout the lineup and now has infected the 5 Series, 6 Series, X5, X6, and all their variants with its bad reliability record.”

        95% of BMW customers: don’t care.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Given that BMW’s year over year sales were down 10% in 2016, maybe they should. Dynamically, the non-sport 3 series is an abomination. Coupled with its interior, which is barely passable for a mainstream car, and there’s really not much reason to buy it outside of the badge. They have problems

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            This. I checked out a 3-series a few weeks back and was shocked at how spartan they are inside. Mercedes has it all over them with the C-class in this respect.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Is it really that bad? I haven’t been raised and weened on the glory days of tactile BMWs so I haven’t witnessed their supposed fall firsthand, but “abomination” seems a little harsh.

            As mentioned many times here, I agree the 3 series interior is disappointing. Setting aside the feature list, the basic materials are no better than a Golf and some of the details are worse. Replacing the vinyl with 1990s Toyota velour would improve the ambience significantly.

            Anyway, GTI is the answer if you want a civilized and sporty compact German 4-door.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            GTI is the answer for a great many things.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          So if BMW customers don’t care about the driving experience or reliability, then what do they care about?

      • 0 avatar

        +1
        Sent my e46 to stealer for wheel alignment. Got an F30 loaner with a sport package. I’ll say the F30 was objectively as good, but the steering and suspension feel were missing. The 4 had power, but instead of seamless six smooth, it was more NVH and wait for boost. I like turbos, but this was a step backwards, even if the 4 makes a few more than the NA 6.

        The know nothings knew the prior cars were special, even if they could not specify why. The current cars are “good” but NOT “special”.

        As a fully blue and white fanboi I am sad.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    BMW’s problem is the rise of Audi. Audi has been on one heck of an offensive for nearly 10 years now and it’s paid off.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Jaguar consistently beat BMW in the handeling stakes. In Europe this matters a lot….

  • avatar
    z9

    I recently rented an X3 and I found the thing surprisingly fun to drive. For an SUV it handled beautifully and I thought to myself for 99% of the drivers in the world it would be incredibly nice. The incongruity between sitting high above the road and the instant responsiveness of a sports car was compelling. The thing that really missed the mark was anything having to do with the electronics: the infotainment system and its weird 19-way orb, the layout of the buttons, the weird and uselessly distracting “surround sound” parking sensors, etc.

    If it were just about making cars in the traditional sense, BMW would probably be OK. But the digital side of the company, at least is it is manifested in their vehicles, feels a decade behind. I say this with some disappointment as someone who works for a company that provides software to BMW.

    The other thing that seems to be trapping BMW is their styling. There is something about the look of a lot of BMWs for the past 20 years that leads people to think their owners are trying too hard. I don’t feel this way about Audi for some reason. There is a new BMW in Europe that I really like: the restyled 2-series Active Tourer. They are trying desperately to market it to hipsters (check out the video on BMW’s German site), but regardless of that it has a simplicity, particularly when you see it in real life, that harkens back to the classic BMW designs of the 70s. They could definitely go even further in this direction.

    Finally, BMW’s Drive Now car sharing service is amazing. If you ever have the chance to hang out with someone who uses it, I guarantee you will think differently about driving afterwards. Of course, part of what impressed me about the service was that when my friend tried to start a Drive Now vehicle on the street in Berlin and it wouldn’t do anything, he called a number and the live operator on the line knew exactly who he was (from his cell number), what car he was trying to start (from his GPS location), and she had a network connection to the car and could see exactly what was going on with it. Sadly she couldn’t get it started either! I guess that kind of sums up the story.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Yes, I love the 2 Series Active Tourer! It’s a BMW version of the Ford C-Max Hybrid. Uh, without the benefits of a Ford price tag or hybrid refinement. But with the benefits of BMW road confidence and build solidity, so a fair trade. I excitedly pointed one out to my wife on the street a couple of weeks ago. “Ugh,” she said, “THAT’s a BMW?” And honestly, BMWs probably sell more to people like her (designer handbag enthusiasts) than people like me (driving enthusiasts with dogs). So I’m guessing my favorite new loaf on wheels is not gonna be coming to North America.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    The problem is BMW tried to get too big. It tried competing in every segment. For a small company, I am sure their engineering resources are stretched to the limit.

    What should we focus on? Our core products of 3, 5, 7?
    Or
    Our SUVs?
    Or new front wheel drive architecture?
    Or new turbo engines?
    Or new mini division?
    How about some Rolls Royce for flavor?
    Ahh yes the I-electric division too

    Of course we also need to make idiotic X6 and 5 GT

    And they wonder why they lost focus?

  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    I think when Chris Bangle came on the scene at BMW, the focus switched from “we’re going to engineer great driving cars” to “we need to get peoples’ attention however we can, because the only way we can grow sales is to attract posers.” Whether you liked the looks or not the Bangle’d cars were designed as attention-getters. I personally thought the Bangle-era cars were completely fugly. The E60 5-series comes to mind with the “Dame Edna” headlights. The E65 7-series, pre-facelift, was also pretty bad.

    But the Bangle cars sold very well – much to the chagrin of the purists.

    I always thought the E38 7-series looked like a German car should.

  • avatar
    orick

    Test drove a 3 series sedan a month or so ago. I think it was a 330 with x drive. A very forgettable experience. Boring exterior, boring interior, boring drive. Most memorable thing was the fan speed button was stuck in. On a brand new car.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    Not the ultimate driving machine anymore? So what. Cadillac is arguably the ultimate driving machine these days and has it helped them sell any cars? The Chevy SS is a fantastic driving car that punches well above its MSRP. Lighting up the sales charts is it? How’s the Mazda 3’s focus on handling translating into sales versus the anodyne Corolla?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Here’s the flaw in the argument about Caddy: if they had chosen to continue their circa-2000 strategy of selling lousy, thinly-veiled variants of family sedans, they’d be toast now.

      • 0 avatar
        Frylock350

        And what if they decided to sell large opulent sedans with powerful engines instead of sports cars? And selling a thinly veiled Yukon Denali turned out to be a great idea. My bigger point still stands catering to enthusiasts is a good way to not sell any cars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @Freed

        They kept the Deville till 2011. The Seville went away but was replaced by a LWB Sigma which they called “sts” but was in fact the new Seville with less passenger room and limited V8 availability. The I think Sigma based SRX was a flop. The brand would have been folded in the bankruptcy had it not been top of the heap “Cadillac” with 933+ dealers at the time using the strategy they did put into practice.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    JimZ nailed it.

    Today’s BMW is mediocrity (most cars now are VERY good, even plebian Camrys and Malibus) coasting on the perception of “Ultimate Driving Machine”.

    Just like GM started getting greedy and lazy in the 1970s and coasting on their past, same with BMW.

    Too bad. The BMW 2002, and first 2-3 generations of 3-series stood out.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    What this illustrates, I think, is not BMW’s decline per se, but rather the democratization of performance. In their U.S. “heyday,” a sedan that could run like a sports car was a novelty, and no one did that better than BMW. Today, performance is an assumption.

    Given that, I’d say what really hurts BMW isn’t the “dulling” of their cars’ performance edges – it’s the undistinguished, blah styling and cheapened interiors.

  • avatar
    desmo21

    Their motorcycles are over complicated and unreliable. They have had quality and reliability issues for years. The older the motorcycle the more reliable it is. Not a good place for a manufacturer to be…………

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    I remember the late 90s friends of my parents who had drive rwd buicks got aBMw 7 series. These people wouldnt know or care about any type of car performance, it was size and status. But the wife commented to me how nice the bmw drove, how “easy” it was to steer(ie precise), how good the brakes were etc. People may not overtly care about performance but they can “feel” the attributes of a perfoamnce car, and its part of what sells.

    Additionaly the whole BMW brand was born off the “endoresment” of those who knew cars, cared and therefore drove bmws. The pack always follows the few. Loose your core customer base and rape your brand values it takes 15-30 years and then youre done. Same thing happening at ferrari now. You chase a different customer to increase sales, pander to what you percieve their needs are (from clinics because you dont know your buisness) and you become me too.

    Same thing at honda, when they went away from wishbone suspension up front because “custoemrs” didnt care, lost great motors and engineering they became a car the same as a cheaper korean car.

    Modern BMWs mostly cheapo inetriors, ho hum engines and as others have said atrocious ride.
    I recently drove a friends turboed 6cyl 4 series. Its was the most isolated driving experince I ever had, as a perfoamce driver I would say its isolation was dangerous.

    People buy these cars because theyre fun to drive, which does not have to mean epic fast..

    indian frined who grew up with no cars and is in accounting. First company car was an e46, which now has 180k miles on it and he kept. Second car with promotion new 5 series which he says he does not drive because its so mind numbingly boring, he couldnt put his finger on it, but he said its just different, nothign special somehow lacking.. He said if he knew thtas how it would be he would have bought some other manufactuers product. He still drives the e46 by preference.

    new mercedes and audis more inetrestign to drive. BMW used to be the ultimate drivign machine. Now they are some sort of ultimate techno machine tht a can maybe be driven. They just totaly lost the plot.

    As for electrics, hybrids and electrics are exactly 2% of the market.

    You dotn need CTS V or M5 performance, the old e30 318s were slugs, point is they drove great, were sold and lasted, new bmws do not drive great or even nicely. Their motors dont inspire, and thye are not particularily well built. Like a lot of manufactuers BMW is taking the lazy path by trying to differentiate with ever more needless techno gimicks.

    Its not complicated. Start with a sold car, great motor and one that drive rides and handles properly.

    As to the suvs, nothing wrong with a nice suv, look at the alfa slevio.
    IMO the BMW X5 is currently the best of the crop in terms of overall ride and handling. Problem is even the V8 is gravely and they need a 3 row.

  • avatar
    John R

    What’s happening to BMW, it sounds like from this article and everyone’s comments, are two things:

    1)They aren’t keeping up the latest technological innovations (not infotainment gizmos that will become tedious after 6 months)

    2)Like what’s happened to Mazda, the rest of the market caught up or caught up enough dynamically for most customers; put summer tires on a V6 Accord Touring and a 335i owner/lessee will really have to live up to the stereotype to demonstrate the difference. What’s more is what do driving dynamics matter, really, to an SUV buyer?

  • avatar
    Featherston

    Question: What was the best era for BMW interiors? When the brand was on the ascent in the ’70s and early ’80s, the interiors definitely were austere. What was there was, for the era, high-quality and well-assembled, but they certainly weren’t opulent.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Exactly, but BMW had a lot less competition back then. You wanted the performance / handling, you dealt with the plain interiors. But everyone offers performance / handling now.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    At a company I worked at the VP bought a 7 series BMW and the CEO bought a Range Rover the same year. Approximately 50% of the time there was a service loaner in the VP’s parking spot and he sold the BMW after 2 years. He said he wouldn’t take it out of the city anymore as it had stranded him too many times. Replaced it with an Audi A8.

    The CEO used to tease the VP mercilessly about BMW “quality” since his Range Rover was flawless in its reliability. The Range Rover always showed up in the CEO’s parking spot everyday.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    B M W – “BREAK MY WALLET”
    No need for this kind of “reliability”.
    Never buy one beyond the warranty!

    Make Packard Great Again!

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Probably don’t need to say too much, but all the “little” things that together added up to a great riding, great handling, great braking, great sounding, and resulted in an all-around nearly perfect car (I’m not sure anyone could do all these things together as well as BMW)….

    Those are all gone. All of them. E90 could be redeemed by getting rid of the garbage run flats. But since then, they’re flabby, floaty, mushy steering, with 4 cylinder engines in 50k+ cars you can get in a car for a pleb.

    The old ones could would make you smile, would make you feel like the best driver in the world. Even if you weren’t an enthusiast everyone would comment on the great handling, the great brakes, the smooth I6s, etc. You could still feel that greatness in your commute that set the cars apart from everyone else. And you’d put up with the interior and iffy reliability because they were just great to drive.

    Now, I think they drive worse than a Lexus. Throw in a reenergized Audi and Mercedes and Jaguar. Maybe even toss in Cadillac. Volvo. And then add in that you can get pretty luxurious “everyday” cars that end up driving better in a lot of ways than a BMW, its pretty obvious to me.

    I loved them. I drove my first and knew I’d own one. I thought that is all I would ever want to own. Today…I’d never buy one of them.

    Its too bad.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      A large number of Jaguar executives are refugees from BMW. The chance to work for a boutique brand where the cars don’t have to be all things for everybody is irresistible.

  • avatar
    jaybee2

    I think there are many factors contributing to BMW’s decline including those mentioned above, but I will proffer/posit three more:

    1. the surprising European appetite to jump on the SUV bandwagon, esp in regions/markets where one-car households dominate and opt for the most flexible design over performance in their car buying decisions.

    2. BMW’s corporate (read, the brass) determination to forego or ignore BMW’s core competencies (sport sedans and inline engine expertise) and chase all market segments including every micro-niche you can conjure up, and

    3. Pandering/chasing the China market to the exclusion of BMW’s core markets and technology strengths.

    Classic corporate miscalculation and losing their way forward by forgetting what got them to the top in the first place.

    My 2 cents…

  • avatar
    mariposa

    I really wanted to like the M2. Just traded in my E9x M3 on a Shelby GT350, however. It’s really kinda sad how bad it blows away the current M4. BMW has some serious soul-searching to do.

  • avatar
    nfeatherly0715

    Believe those that have stated that there seems to be something missing or the feeling that you’re driving something special have it right. However I don’t think this just applies for BMW, just look at Toyota and the death of Scion for instance. Seems that today’s vehicles are full of gimmicks and gizmos because that’s what research shows that the mass majority of today’s drivers care about and when that’s all that matters it’s hard to set your self apart…. so much tech and safety devices you can cram into a vehicle before it becomes less about you driving the vehicle and more about the vehicle driving you. I think we’ve really hit a plateau as far as affordable “drivers cars go because safety and emissions legislation is practically killing them off and it’s been slowly working towards that for awhile especially here in the US…example the stupid DOT bumpers on the late e30’s. At this point it feels that all car makers are fighting for something new and idly enough the US makers that almost became extinct are starting to shine and competing against European car makers with cars like the new Camero and Cadillacs. But back to my experience as to why BMW has kind of lost that special feeling. back not to long ago when I took my e46 330i into get a inspection done I was giving an x1 for a loaner and as nice as it was I really couldn’t wait to take back a 2017 model with all the gadgets and tech because I missed my 15 year old car that much and that should say something. In this day and age if it weren’t for the car company logos on the hood and plastered all over the inside it’s really hard to tell one manufacturer apart from the other and that too says a lot. Makes you wonder if car companies use logos just so they can remind themselves what company they actually work for lol.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    George Harrison said it best: All Things Must Pass.

    Cadillac: 1960s/70s
    BMW: 1980s/90s
    Audi/Lexus: 2000s+

    A good friend who has been pining for a BMW for the last 20 years, just pulled the trigger on a Benz. Why? “The BMW was nothing special. The Merecedes is.”

    Personally I love good road cars but keep an eye on reliability ratings too. Infiniti hits the sweet spot in many ways for me at least.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    I know nothing about wakeboarding.

    If I ever wanted to get a wakeboard, I’d talk to my friends who are into them and ask them which one to buy.

    I may want a cheap one because I’m not that interested or it’s all I could afford, but I’d also look at that premium one they love and swear handles the water better and is just more fun than the rest.

    Even if I didn’t pony up this time, I’d know that the handling/fun one meant something to aspire to.

    If however, when I asked about the premium one, they told me it used to be fun, but breaks all the time and is boring to ride, and is really a crappy version of another premium brand, not only would I not buy it, but I wouldn’t aspire to one nor really respect anyone who has it.

    Yes, car enthusiasts buying power isn’t all that much, but they do have a huge sway in the market.

    Being a car nerd, I’m always asked now what I recommend for this person or that person.

    I’ve owned at least 9 BMWs from the 1970s-2000s, and I honestly couldn’t recommend a new one to anyone unless they were looking for something that looks money under warranty.

    There are more reliable, better looking, better value, more fun, better performing, and more practical cars elsewhere.

  • avatar
    yaletownman

    After owning 4 Mercedes the last one being an S-Class I felt I wanted a wagon so to make it more funnI bought a 3 series wagon with X drive, It was fun at first until the warranty ran out. It’s teue what they say lease and hand the keys back on one of the pieces of crap before the warranty is up. By the time the car had 65k on it I’d spent at least 20k beyond normal maintenance on repairs. The X drive was the worst of it all and being that I live in sunny California and never drove it off a smooth pa ed road made it especially annoying to have so many issues with it. I paid to have more baskets replaced and my garage floor still bears the stains, the sunroof finally had to be entirely replaced as well. Even my S-class which cost a fortune and I expected expensive repairs beyond the warranty never had many problems. My E-Classes were fantastic. I recently just got rid of the BMW right before all the recalls for potential fire issues as well as the recall for the airbags of death came out. I’m not quite the victim here because everyone I knew warned me and they were right. I guess BMW remains in business because of the lease market and stupid people like myself that think they’ll be the lucky one.


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