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Re: Don't buy a new model BMW
- Subject: Re: Don't buy a new model BMW
- From: "Steve Makohin" <wateredg@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 2 Sep 2005 17:38:56 -0400
From: "Ben Barkow" <dr.ben@xxxxxxxxx>
> I appreciate your extended post in defense of BMW...
Just to correct you, my post does not "defend" BMW. It *explains* why they
do what they do, rightly or wrongly. My hope is that through understanding,
some people on this list may experience a diminished level of frustration.
> As a beemer rider for 39 seasons with no interruption, I think
> my credentials as a BMW enthusiast are unassailable.
That depends. What exactly are your "credentials" other than having ridden,
owned, and/or possibly serviced various BMW motorcycles for 39 seasons? If
you express opinions that are inconsistent with facts, then you should
rightfully expect them to be challenged -- I am NOT alleging that you have
done this, but merely pointing out how your well-earned "credentials" may
not be as "unassailable" as you believe them to be.
> Having said that, let's get back to the simple suggestion: don't buy a
> new model.... at least not right away.
Understandably so. Common consumer knowledge tells us that first-year or
first-release products experience some teething pains. This is true for a
digital camera, or a car. Some manufacturers are better than others.
> That a+s+s kissing book says BMW cars are "below average" in defects...
If you are saying that BMW's cars have fewer defects than average, then your
statement is NOT correct. Have you actually read "DRIVEN: Inside BMW, the
world's most admired car company" (henceforth referred to as DRIVEN), or
have you formed this opinion through other means. For the record, DRIVEN
o BMW has always had quality issues. At times, really severe ones.
o In the 1950s and 1960s, BMW's cars had defect ratings that were on par
with British cars (that being "dismal")
o BMW has also has a long history of "perceived" quality issues, such as
customers feeling that interiors were "cheap", irrespective of the actual
cost of manufacture or cost of materials (e.g., expensive materials that
are hand crafted can still look cheap).
o BMW went on a big "quality" initiative in the late 1980s and early 1990s,
and made significant gains (as compared to the horrid defect rates they
used to have), though those gains have not put them on par with Asian
manufacturers such as Lexus.
So how do you figure an assessment like that is "ass kissing"? I think it's
pretty stark! It sends a clear message to the reader: If you want a
Lexus-like low number of defects, you are not likely to get it from BMW.
> ...but the immense sample contributing to the CU stats says it is LAST-
> not just below Lincoln (gimme a break) but also KIA and far below Hundai
> and, well, everybody else. BTW, the BMW-owned Mini was near the bottom.
> Perhaps that fact helps us guess where BMW-bike would be.
It all depends on where you get your data, and for what year, and what was
measured. There are J.D.Powers stats that show BMW's defect numbers to be a
bit worse than the industry average, while others show them to be *much*
worse. I don't care to dicker over those nuances. But what is known
throughout the industry, and what is accurately depicted in DRIVEN, is that
BMW is not known now, nor have they ever been known for their low number of
initial defects, nor the infrequency of repairs. No matter how you present
this information, it's a rather condemning statement that BMWs have many
more defects than we'd like them to have. And this statement does not apply
exclusively to the first year of ownership, or just to newly introduced
> It is no surprise that other manufacturers admire BMW because as you say
> they are making unheard-of profits in a downtrodden industry...
Your statement is misleading. BMW has recorded healthy profits, attractive
margins per vehicle, and admirable unit sales numbers regardless of the
economy and the state of the auto industry. During the dot-com boom, BMW was
bustling. During the dot-com bust, BMW continued to prosper. This extends
right back to the 1950s. And it is admirable how a car company can seem to
be largely unaffected by calamity around it. It takes an awful lot of
corporate "right stuff' to make that happen. That is just one of the reasons
why BMW is arguably the most admired car company in the world.
> Hey, guess who is paying for their unheard-of profits? Buyers of new
> models with many defects in design and construction? Could it be just
> a bit of "cost-cutting" in the engineering is helping boost those
The book cites a variety of cost-cutting measures that took place to retain
profitability, and yes, some of them translated into increases in defect
counts. But keep in mind, BMW's profitability was noteworthy since the
1950s, long before cost-cutting measures, due primarily to the relative
weakness of the DM, were put into effect. So we would be prudent not to come
to the conclusion that BMW is profitable because of cutting corners.
For a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of how BMW wins the
admiration of the automotive industry, as well as management teams unrelated
to the industry, read DRIVEN.
> The only point I wanted to make - and clear enough from my title - is
> that you should be cautious in buying a new model. If that is true of
> cars (with a large factor of protection from the large consumer base and
> bad PR and other consumer protections) then it is more true for bikes
> where life and limb and really big bucks stand in the balance (and you
> have to deal those liars at BMW-NA) I don't think anything in your post
> qualifies my obvious conclusion.
I agree with you entirely: Be cautious when buying a first-year vehicle, and
especially cautious when buying a first-year BMW. What I don't agree with,
is a number of other statements that you included in your original posting.
o "Sure sounds like buying a new-model BMW car is a really bad idea."
True, if your sole decision factor is "number of defects per 100
However, if you place higher value on other factors, and you are going
into the relationship with realistic expectations, then you are likely to
rewarded with a gratifying experience. Most BMW owners fall into
this category, including owners of first-year models who had numerous
repair head-aches, but still love their BMW.
o "This news will be puzzling to those of an authoritarian outlook in life
who believe engineers, ESPECIALLY BMW engineers are Perfect
geniuses and should never be second-guessed. Seems even
engineers make and sell their mistakes... for two years or more."
This is presented with the notion that every defect is a mistake. The
corollary to this is that there is an expectation of zero defects. In
reality, no vehicle manufacturer has zero defect, nor do any expect
to ever achieve this, nor do any aspire to achieve this unrealistic
goal. Each manufacturer invests what they feel is appropriate to
reduce defects to "acceptable" levels. See my other posts for more
details. Read DRIVEN for a much more comprehensive analysis
of this prickly point.
o "When I bought my 1999 R1100S in 2004...and got to know the
model, I was delighted and reassured to find that The Factory had
largely 'got it right' the first time with this model..."
My research showed that the first year R1100S had a "higher than
desired" number of issues which included:
- Cracks around windshield fastening screws
- Oil leaks around head bolts, some gaskets
- Dual seat cover fasteners would loosen too easily and fall off
- Catalytic converter would develop a rattle
Note that BMW corrected reported incidents under warranty, and
they engineered fixes so that these issues did not appear in bikes
made during the second year of production. Not all first year
R1100Ses experiences all, or any of these problems.
So while "first year model" caution is advisable when researching your new
BMW vehicle, and while it is prudent to keep in mind that BMW has a long
history of not doing very well in the defect count metrics, this is a far
cry from "doom and gloom".
Talk to new BMW owners, bikes and four wheelers, and generally, the
experience is positive to strongly positive. Rightly or wrongly, few BMW
owners dislike their vehicles, in spite of the number of defects.
> It is also curious that, as you say, the biggest lump of new-model buyers
> are BMW bike virgins! I rest my case.
According to DRIVEN, in the past several years, since the current 7 series
debuted in 2002, we have been experiencing the redirection of BMW towards a
different clientele. Early retail data is showing us that DRIVEN's
statements are correct. A large portion of BMW's "old" customers do not like
their new auto styles, outside and in, all the while new first-time BMW
buyers are buying these ugly ducking performers in record numbers. The new
BMW bikes are a departure from BMW Motorrad's tradition, in some cases a
sharp one (the K1200S, as close to a UJM as BMW has ever come), and yet, the
majority of buyers are new to The Brand.
DRIVEN accurately states that BMW decided to make these changes, knowing
they would lose a lot of loyal customers along the way, but also knowing (or
arguably believing) they would pick up a whole new type of BMW cadre to
replace the fallen soldiers, and then some. The passing of time is showing
us that once again, BMW continues to impress.
- -Steve Makohin
Oakville, Ontario, Canada