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Understanding BMW (was "any data?")


You say:

>Characteristics of a "typical" BMW owner include, but are not limited to:
>o Places high importance on an "exciting drive"

Have you driven a new 5er?   I was not excited.

 >o Places high importance on a vehicle's "character"

I think they're losing their character as well...or their trying to invent a
new character for a different type of customer...I no longer fit, it appears.

 >o Prefers understated styles rather than louder statements of "I have
   arrived", such as that which is found in Mercedes Benz

I LOVE understated styles rather than louder statements of "I have arrived".
I feel Audi and Volvo are both doing this better than the new BMW designs
right now.

 >o Likes advanced technology

Well, they've always like advanced technology, but they used to put it in the
car and not force the buyer to adapt to it.   Everything just worked logically
and better.  Radios that turn themselves up when the windows are opened at
high speed,  computers that calculate the right time for service and let the
customer know with a dash indicator.   Adaptive cruise control...   All these
sorts of things, and I'm not for a lot of them myself, work without making the
driver work a mouse while he's trying to drive.   The new styling of the cars
is contrived and self-conscious.   It's not advanced.

I love when new cars are more fun than old cars...more power, better handling
while still being more comfortable etc.   It's the philosophy of the advanced
technology that's wrong now.  It's akin to the old "gadgets for gadget's sake"
like the 60's american cars had that's getting me down.   Now a couple air
bags aren't enough, they need 6 or 8.   We need a stereo with so many controls
on it that it takes a month to master it...yet it sounds no better than the
old one.   This needless complexity just causes problem down the line and
hurts resale on the cars.

 >o Places lower emphasis on low initial purchase price, low cost of
   maintenance, low frequency of repairs

I think the target BMW driver is a busy exec or spouse of an exec, who may
also work.  These people don't have time to take their cars in a lot.   Yes,
they care about them more than the average car buyer, but constant trips to
the dealer are not appreciated, even if BMW pays for the repair.

My Audi dealer is the best I've ever seen.   I actually really like the
customer service people.  The place is clean, uncrowded, gives me free bottled
water, great coffee, snacks and wireless internet while I wait.  If I give
them a little notice, I get a near new A6 loaner.   Hard to beat that.  I
rarely pay for any service or repair, but it's still an inconvenience.

Now, if they dropped off an identical car to mine at work and brought mine
back washed with a full tank of gas, I'd want them to service the car a couple
times a week!

>To understand where BMW's engineering focus truly shines,

I've owned, let's see, 5 BMW cars and 3 BMW bikes.  I've driven and ridden
countless others as well as countless other marques.   I'm a BMW CCA driving
instructor.   I've got 20,000 or so TRACK MILES on BMWs.  I even sat in the
shotgun position in one as we slid off the Nurburgring at 85 mph.  I
understand where BMW's engineering focus truly shines.

>see the first
>point made in this post.

I agree with the first point made in the post...for cars up to, say, the new 5
series, which I don't like.   The Z4 does work better, but it's a styling
disaster.  Add to that the recent quality issues and you have to wonder why
you should bother with them.   There are a lot of other really good cars out
there now.  This wasn't true 15 years ago.

>BMW's four-wheelers, it is agreed by industry
>experts, are unique in their character, enjoy a superb brand position, and
>have exciting characteristics. Much of that requires engineering talent.

Well, I think it WAS agreed by industry, but where a few years ago, BMW was
way on top of the heap, no questions asked, especially in the sporty sedan
catagory, they're just barely first or sometimes even a close second in the
running.   And they cost more, and they look weird, and they break a lot, and
if you live in the North, rear wheel drive can be a bit of a nusiance, buying
winter tires and putting 100 lb bags of sand in your trunks.

I'm the first one to put up with a few little quirks and niggles in a car, so
long as I love it.  I can't tell you the number of fixes I performed on the
1974tii I had for 10 years and 100,000 miles.  The car ran, handled and looked
better when I sold it than when I bought it.   It had a larger radiator,
electronic ignition, replaced and reinforced front quarter panels to prevent
future rust.   Different steering wheel, different sized wheels and tires,
different shocks, sway bars and springs (nothing radical, mind you, just a
nice balance between comfort and sport) , little spacers in the rear window
flip-out latches to prevent them from popping open or even leaking at speed,
many rebuild or replaced components etc. etc.   But even 10 years after I
bought it, that car was as much fun to drive as anything else on the road.
It was worth the trouble.

Now there are plenty of cars that are more fun to drive than an old 4
cylinder, 140 HP 2 door sedan.   I'm on my 2nd M3 and occasionally consider
buying a newer one, but just can't see it.   I'm scary fast on the race track
with this car and it still looks good to me.

>Stats show that BMW's vehicle quality, as far as four-wheelers go and as
>measured by the number of defects in the first year of ownership, and in
>subsequent years, has been declining in recent years.

Well, I think I said that.

>DRIVEN attributes a
>large portion of this to the relative weakness of the DM in relation to the
>US dollar since the mid to late 1990s. BMW had to reduce costs to remain
>somewhat price competitive.

Either you or DRIVEN need to work on your foreign exchange math skills.  When
I'm manufacturing in Germany and the d-mark is weak, I make out like a bandit
when I get high value US Dollars for my products.    When the D-Mark is strong
and the dollar is weak is when I get killed.   Both extremes have happened in
the last 10 years and the fluctuation is what makes life unpredictable for
exporters.   If you can build plants all over the place, you can switch
production around to suit the world situation.  That's the best scenario.

>, and they did this in a number of ways including
>(but not limited to) setting up manufacturing facilities in foreign
>countries, and using less expensive components.

Well, I think I said that too.    A lot of BMW buyers, both new and old, are
getting pretty upset when a major component on a really expensive car just up
and fails, stranding them on the road on their way to dinner downtown with
friends.   Can't say as I blame them.   These are not JAGUARS, after all.

>This issue of quality also extends to "perceived quality", that is the
>customer's perception of quality, measured independently of quantifiable
>metrics such as "defects per hundred new vehicles in the first year of
>ownership." One of these "perceived quality" items in BMW's 4-wheeler's
>interiors, which in recent years have been restyled dramatically in what has
>been called by BMW the "Flame Surface" styling language. The consensus of
>the buying public and of critics alike is that the interiors *look* cheap,
>even though they may not, in fact, be so. This has resulted in a perceived
>reduction of quality in addition to actual declines as measured by various
>industry metrics.

Well, now we're getting to it.  My whole point is that these overpaid brats
have squandered untold millions on dumb designs that look cheap and don't work
very well.   That, combined with the "global outsourcing" of components has
watered down the BMWness of the cars for me.  Where does "flame surface design
language" fit into  " o Prefers understated styles rather than louder
statements of "I have
arrived" ?"    These guys are out of control, if you ask me (and a lot of
others who've spent low to mid six figures on BMW products over the years).

>Yet in spite of these issues, BMW is achieving record profits, and record
>unit sales figures, so they don't seem to have a lack of customers. DRIVEN
>attributes this to BMW's extremely good handle on their customers (read
>DRIVEN for details). This does not mean that BMW does what their customers
>want, but rather, BMW does what enough people want to supply BMW with a
>sufficient number of customers to attain their unit sales and profit
>figures. BMW has truly been an industry leader in this respect, by defining
>a market segments through the products they offer, rather than making
>products to satisfy an identified market segment.

That's another way of saying they've gone off and left the real car guys in
search of a status symbol.   It seems to be working.   I don't want to argue
that it's "wrong" for them to do this.  I just am no longer attracted to these
cars.   Let someone else pay too much for a car that breaks a lot, doesn't
work any better than a lot of other cars on the market and looks like a
Hyundai.  Let them snuggle up together on the leather couch with the cigarette
burns in it and watch Oprah all day while their cars are being "processed" or
"updated".    I'm not sure where I'm going for my next 4-wheel vehicle, but
it's probably not BMW.

But I do like my new Hex Head RT.  Not perfect, but a lot closer, even if they
fame broiled the styling on it a little bit.   A little secret...get black or
dark graphite top and bottom and it doesn't seem so annoying.

>BMW's new vehicles are attracting a new BMW customer. Sadly for many of us,
>we will be left behind because BMW will transition into a product line that
>no longer reflects our values, but which captures the attention and desires
>of a new and different BMW customer cadre. This is actually happening now.
>When you look at the current 7, 6, 5, and 3 series, the have distinct Asian
>styling cues...

When these new buyers realize that they haven't bought asian reliability in
their new and more expensive BMW, I wonder how many will return?

>, as seen in the swooping, stylized headlights, as one example.
Analysts note that early reports indicate significant numbers of BMW
customers are new to the brand, and are moving from Lexus and Acura (Asian
brands) to BMW.

Interesting, because I think the Acura TL is now the best looking real world
car on the road.   I'd never buy one for two reasons....1. Back seat won't
fold down. (I didn't buy the previous 5 series because they wanted to charge
over $600 for this feature.)  2. The dashboard is way to gaudy.   After 5 year
with Audi, I'm spoiled for pleasant, high quality, understated interiors.

>Similarly, retailers report that the majority of BMW K1200S customers are
not existing BMW riders who are upgrading. Rather, they are new to the BMW
brand making this their first BMW bike.

Ah, finally a word about the bikes.    Interesting that the new K12S is also
the most wrecked new bike BMW has.  People are smashing them up on test rides.
You can't get a test ride on one anymore.  NA changed their policy on this
around May, according to my dealer.   They had half of their demo bikes
waiting for repair parts around the country.    I kinda like the K12S although
I think it looks a little cheap in some colors.   I think it's the frame and
driveline pieces.  They're charging a premium for this bike over other
sportbikes.   They should make it look the part.   Still, I'm attracted.
It's pretty comfortable to ride and I actually like the bags pretty well.

- -TB


End of oilheads-digest V2 #201