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Re: Understanding BMW (was "any data?")

Hello Tom,

From: "Tom Brown" <tbrown@xxxxxxxxxxx>

Rather than address every one of your points, it is critically important for 
all of us to realize that your opinions may not be representative of the 
"typical" BMW owner. Ditto for me. So I'll highly paraphrase your 

>>Characteristics of a "typical" BMW owner include, but are not limited to:
>>o Places high importance on an "exciting drive"
>...I was not excited...
> >o Places high importance on a vehicle's "character"
> I think they're losing their character as well...
> >o Likes advanced technology
>...It's the philosophy of the advanced technology that's wrong now.
> It's akin to the old "gadgets for gadget's sake"...
> >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.

The point you miss is this: Do BMW's defects and repair frequency make 
people vote against it with their purchasing dollars, or does BMW offer 
enough "something" so that people buy it, even when the higher defects and 
increased service requirements are factored in? BMW's unit sales numbers 
since 1950 tell us the latter is true. DRIVEN (the book titled "DRIVEN: 
Inside BMW, the world's most admired car company") details why there has 
never been a shortage of BMW buyers, in spite of the unflattering service 
requirements and initial defects. I think it's cool to understand these 
facts and the supporting proof, even though one may not share the values of 
a "typical" BMW owner, old or new.

>>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.

Generally, your statements resonate with readily available data. For many, 
many years, BMW four wheelers have been at or near the top of auto 
magazines' "Top 10" lists. They were considered by many to be the benchmark 
by which others (sport sedans or the like) are measured. Since about the 
year 2002, and coinciding with the debut of the current 7 series, BMW has 
been harshly criticized by the auto industry, by BMW customers, and by the 
car buying public at large for the reasons you cite: controversial styling, 
iDrive, cheap interiors, and "tech for the sake of tech". A recent UK 
episode of Top Gear assessed the BMW M5 as ugly, annoying,  unneccessarily 
complex, and fragile (they blew a transmission and a differential during 
testing), and yet, when you hit the M button, it becomes "one of the best 
cars ever made." Love it or hate it, all that comes in one package.

Today, BMW's cages "enjoy" an uneasy limelight full of mixed emotions. 
Reviewers no longer give the stamp of unconditional approval. BMW is often 
not seen on "Top 10" lists at all, or they just barely edging in near the 
bottom. Reviewers acknowledge the great handling, but nearly universally 
condemn iDrive, and try to remain polite by saying that the 6 series is the 
best looking of the current generation of BMW's without actually calling it 
attractive, which is sort of like saying this the best looking hunch-back. 
And yet, the sales numbers are there, so there are enough people who like 
what BMW is today to keep The Brand prospering.

FYI, I've been driving my '97 328 for 8 winters in Ontario, Canada, and with 
4 Pirelli Asymmetricos, I did perfectly fine, without the need for junk in 
the trunk.

re: Cost cutting

>>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...

You are correct. It's ME that's mis-stating this. It was the DM's *strength* 
in relation to other currencies' weakness that made BMW's cars waaay too 
expensive in foreign markets. Sorry for that error on my part. As an aside, 
when the Canadian dollar was sucking horridly in the early part of this 
decade (as opposed to just sucking badly), such as when 1 US dollar cost 
$1.60 Canadian, I bought my R1100S for about CAD$3,000 less than what it 
cost in the States times currency exchange rates. BMW simply made less 
margin in order to sell in a specific market.

>>BMW's new vehicles are attracting a new BMW customer. Sadly for many of 
>>we will be left behind because BMW will transition into a product line 
>>no longer reflects our values, but which captures the attention and 
>>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, they have distinct 
>>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?

That's a good question. I am not aware of any data on this point. Corporate 
health depends upon *sustained* profitability and growth. Time will tell how 
this facet unfolds.

- -Steve Makohin
 '01 R1100S/ABS
 Oakville, Ontario, Canada 


End of oilheads-digest V2 #203