BMW Acknowledges It Is 'The Ultimate Driving Machine' No Longer, Holds Rallies to Scare Employees

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
bmw acknowledges it is the ultimate driving machine no longer holds rallies to

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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  • Skotastic Skotastic on Apr 30, 2017

    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.

  • Yaletownman Yaletownman on Nov 05, 2017

    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.

  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )