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BMW: The ultimate niche machines, not driving machines anymore.

By Rigval on 11 Feb 2010

Attached Image BMW is one company that keeps losing the plot over and over again. I have never known a company so relentless in pursuing niche markets that it comes up with models that are supposed to be a result of a comprehensive market study. This means that all the current models made by BMW are actually designed by studies based on opinion given by the following:

A fat American 6ft 5in couch potato who thinks Football is a game where burly men bang into each other while chasing a oval shaped ball and thinks that the world consists of anything in between Arkansas and Florida;

a middle aged CEO of a company who likes sitting in the rear seat of his 7 series and has 4 kids;

a 30 something career woman who likes sitting up high in a vehicle as she’s only 4ft 11in without her Louboutins and

that rich "towkay" DVD pirate from Hong Kong who likes a little bling on his ride while stopping at the curb for some midnight Bah Kut Teh.

I mean it is possible. Focus groups are usually a mis-match of customers that manufacturers use to garner information.

The main problem is that car manufacturers are that they have focus groups, motoring journalists and the whole of America to blame for. The focus groups tend to be from a wide range of people who are parents, rocket scientists, insurance salesmen, lawyers, con-men, jedi knights as well as mass murderers. America is listed because they tend to have people larger than anyone else in the world today. These people suggested some details that have been incorporated into modern cars. They suggested cup-holders and ‘teh-tarik’ hooks (the new Proton Exora MPV has them), which are good. They suggested the fact that they need larger cars for them to use in their daily commute. For example take the Honda Civic. In 1984 it was a small 2-4 door hatchback/sedan that was used as a second car for people who wanted a small town car to run daily errands. Honda slowly increased the car in size until what I believed it was optimum with the 1992 EG series. Everyone who sat in one had decent and more than ample headroom and legroom. I don’t remember sitting in a 4 door Civic SiR and complaining that I had to remove my head from its socket and place it on my lap, or amputate my legs from the knees down in order for me to fit in one.

Focus group participants who complained about lack of space in their supposedly small Civic because they went and sat in some larger car that their relatives had and wished their small compact Civic was that car. This is actually the same with some journalists who jump in and out of cars comparing them and saying that this is actually too small compared to that newer model They compared the previous Civic with the newly launched Lancer and when the newly launched Corolla came out and trounced both in size they then said that the Civic and Lancer are small. It’s like a stupid arms race that’s caused by comparing one newer make to another. Car manufacturer engineers should not always follow what journalists and focus groups say. Which is what BMW, who purportedly tell the world that they build the ‘Ultimate Driving Machines’.

Attached Image: 300px_Proton_Gen555.JPG
- This here folks is the X6 or 5 series GT or in my mind the original design concept for both cars - The Proton Gen2.
Attached Image

I’m sorry. Is an X6 SUV an ultimate driving machine? Sure, there’s now an M version of it that can dance pretty well for a car that weighs 2 tons and is taller than what you’d think a sports car should be. As an ‘Ultimate’, it’s not. How ultimate can an SUV ‘coupe’ be? You will actually find it hard to fathom the words ‘coupe’ and ‘SUV’ in the same sentence but BMW says it’s possible and that this is what people want. And suddenly, if you gave it a proper look at it, it looks like a Proton Gen2 that's been enlarged with a BMW grill planted on it. That's what it is. A niche hatchback that's whale sized, and sits on a 4X4 chassis. An ultimate SUV coupe. That's because if you look around you. No other car manufacturers are building X6 Clones. Its a monopoly of one.

The same goes to the new 5 series Gran Turismo. A combination of a sports sedan, an SUV, a hatchback and a Grand Tourer. Why? Because if you looked at the press blurb or video on it you will know that BMW said that it was after they had listened to a group of people that they decided to make a car that had the relative size of a 5 series, had a taller sitting position but not as high up like an SUV and was luxurious. What they did was base it on the F10 (new 5 Series platform), raise the sitting position and throw in a 7 series interior. For me, and most motorheads a Gran Turismo or a Grand Tourer is usually a l2 door luxurious, high performance car that is made for covering long distances, usually a 2 door like an Aston Martin DB9, an AMG SL63, a Maserati Gran Turismo or a Bentley Continental GT and to a lesser extent any large sports car. But because BMW listened to Chuck from Da Bronx, Nu York, or Otto the analytical engineer from Stuttgart BMW decided that a 5 door high riding hatchback is a Grand Tourer. Wait a minute, Stuttgart is the home of Mercedes. Could it be that Mercedes is paying some people in BMW to come up with funny niche within a niche categories while they come up with fabulous cars like the new Gullwing AMG SLS Coupe and the CLS, the coupe shaped 4 door that started this coupe sedan niche that is currently being imitated by everyone – VW Passat CC, Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin Rapide, etc and continue building cars of quality within market segments instead of chasing niche markets left, right and center.

What next? A 6 series coupe 3 door hatchback that has off-road suspension and ground clearance of a Land Rover Defender because Bob the Builder wants one? If BMW actually sat down and thought hard. They have deviated from their original concept of building the ultimate driving machine. They now build the ultimate niche machines, made by focus groups of the world which are mostly populated by those who actually think driving is a chore and not pleasure or that they want 2 in 1 or 3 in 1 models, like their instant coffee or tea. If I wanted a BMW it'll be a purebred, like the M saloons or the 135i, small but a whopper of an engine. These are still 'ultimates' in my mind.

BMW, Honda Civic, BMW X6M, X6 and 1 more...

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Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.

  • 1
Sturtles Feb 12 2010 05:30 AM
BMW has grown from a stable of 3 cars to what it has now, no thanks to the avalanche of X models since they sold Landrovers.

Much to the loyalist's annoyance, they do sell pretty well to propagate the series. Young fans don't understand cars their fathers would like, WILL make more money for the company.

Cars they are hoping to buy, aren't.

If there are other models from the Z series, they will be cannibalising their 1,3 and 6 series coupes, of course, unless they come up with a 4 door version of the Z4 or 6 series, or some outdated shooting brake concept.

Thank your stars there are still the 1 and 3 series coupe for your sporty look and drive.
Ragingbull Feb 22 2010 03:03 PM
I thought the 1 looked like a close cousin of the sperm whale Sturtles.

Your above post puts into light the obvious shift of generational preferences...something like you mentioned the purist are cringing from.

Porsche coming up with an SUV that would go on to sell so well that it funded the development of the 911 range. Sad truth I guess but these brands aren't the same as we remember them to be.

Ferrari's now playing around with hybrid techonology and will be previewing it at a motorshow soon enough. No idea what the future will hold for these brands....a Lamborghini MPV maybe?
  • 1
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