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  #1  
Old 10-30-2003, 07:22 AM
jben jben is offline
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WSJ Article on 7 Series (sales trends and planned fixes)

From this mornings Wall Street Journal, Personal Journal, Cars section.
I was surprised that 7 Series sales have dropped so much and also comments that car "flopped in Europe, especially with more conservative German and Swiss customers."

Complete text below.

****
BMW Accelerates
To Fix Its '7 Series'

Purists Disliked Styling And the iDrive Controls;
Sales Are Off 12% This Year
By NEAL E. BOUDETTE Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

FRANKFURT—Two years ago, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG did a radical redesign of its 7 Series sedan, and ended up making big waves among its fans. Now the German car maker is rushing to calm the waters.

BMW is working on a revamped version tentatively slated for launch in the second half of next year, about a year sooner than originally planned, people familiar with the matter said.

The touched-up 7 Series will still aim to present a striking look, but will modify some features that drew howls from purists, such as the front "face" of the car, its bulbous trunk and the dreaded iDrive interior control system, these people said. Peik von Bestenbostel, a BMW spokesman, said the company doesn't comment on cars that are still in development, but said BMW and other car makers typically refresh models every few years. Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus brand, for example, has just updated its top model, the LS 430. It has been on the market a year longer than the 7 Series, however.

The early redesign is a sign BMW went too far with the 7 Series. The car, which starts at about €72,400 ($84,476) in Europe, was the first of several vehicles designed to give the company a bolder, ultramodern look and feel. BMW hoped this would satisfy customer desire for more "curbside presence" in its top-of-the-line model.

When the 7 Series arrived in showrooms in 2002, some fans revolted. A "Stop Chris Bangle" campaign aimed at BMW's American chief designer sprang up on the Internet. BMW has defended the car, pointing out that this version of the 7 Series has outsold its predecessor in the U.S. and Asia. But it has flopped in Europe, especially with more conservative German and Swiss customers.

This year, even sales in the U.S. have softened. In the first nine months of this year, BMW has sold only 14,410 7 Series, down almost 12% from the same period a year ago, according to market researcher Autodata Corp. In September, sales were down 23%. Worse, some U.S. dealers have had to resort to discounts to sell the car, a tactic more familiar to down-and-dirty Chevys and Chryslers than a luxury make like BMW.

One of the main reasons for the hasty facelift is iDrive, a mouse-like knob that drivers use to scroll through a maze of menus to do anything from change the radio settings to turn off the seat heaters. It was supposed to be a leap forward in interior control, but it is so complicated it drives many customers crazy.

"The car is just wonderful to drive. The handling is incredible," said Thomas Tucker, owner of a 2002 7 Series in Mountain Brook, Ala. "But this iDrive is insane. You have to take your eyes off the road or stop to see where you push the knob, turn the knob. I think it's dangerous, if you're driving."

Dealers selling competing models from Lexus and Mercedes-Benz have been trying to use iDrive to their advantage, too. Andreas Stege, who runs a Lexus dealership in Osnabruck, in northern Germany, tells prospective buyers to hop in and drive off in an LS 430 for a hour or so. "Anyone who's driven a 7 Series knows you can't just take the keys and go," he smirked. "You have to spend a hour reading the manual."

BMW also is taking out some of the curves in the 7 Series' headlights and grille to make them more conservative, said a person who has seen prototypes of the new version. The odd-looking trunk, which was the result of a last-minute change to ensure enough room for four golf bags, will be tweaked so it doesn't quite look like it was glued on as an afterthought, the person said.

Write to Neal E. Boudette at neal.boudette@wsj.com1
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  #2  
Old 10-30-2003, 07:27 AM
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  #3  
Old 10-30-2003, 07:37 AM
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From the numbers I've seen, the US is the only market where 7er sales are down.

In the rest of the world, sales of the 7 are growing and doing quite well.
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Old 10-30-2003, 08:01 AM
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Also, although sales may be down, how is the 7er doing in comparison to its peers?
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  #5  
Old 10-30-2003, 08:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elbert
Also, although sales may be down, how is the 7er doing in comparison to its peers?

in the U.S, it's doing poorly compared with the Merc.

Worldwide though, I'm not sure.
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  #6  
Old 10-30-2003, 08:18 AM
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vindicated.

old timers still know what's what.
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  #7  
Old 10-30-2003, 08:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atyclb
From the numbers I've seen, the US is the only market where 7er sales are down.

In the rest of the world, sales of the 7 are growing and doing quite well.
Quote:
But it has flopped in Europe, especially with more conservative German and Swiss customers.
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  #8  
Old 10-30-2003, 08:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Technic
I either.

From what I saw, sales of the 7 outside the US were up 35%
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  #9  
Old 10-30-2003, 09:42 AM
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I would much rather have an S instead of a 7 and an E instead of a 5 based on looks alone. If those two MB's drive as well as the BMW's, we're in trouble.
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Old 10-30-2003, 11:58 AM
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  #11  
Old 10-30-2003, 12:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leuc330Ci
I would much rather have an S instead of a 7 and an E instead of a 5 based on looks alone.
Exactly.
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  #12  
Old 10-30-2003, 12:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atyclb
I either.

From what I saw, sales of the 7 outside the US were up 35%
Must be the Russian mafia buying them. They're known to have exquisite taste in cars.
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Old 10-30-2003, 12:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leuc330Ci
I would much rather have an S instead of a 7 and an E instead of a 5 based on looks alone. If those two MB's drive as well as the BMW's, we're in trouble.
let's be honest and get in tune with the demographic.

people who buy the luxo barges aren't exactly placing a premium on the "driving experience". it's at the level of prestige and some sort of je ne sais pas --> but they want some level of understated elegance. i'm sure most have a playcar in the garage for the weekends...if you've seen or read about the demographics for the S class or 7 series buyer, they make a lot of money.

so, basically, it IS based on looks.

and it's a done deal. the car is getting restyled because it's getting whopped. even Jon Shafer prefers the new A8.
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  #14  
Old 10-30-2003, 01:19 PM
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Love it--very funny. I'm happy to see BMW get as much flak as possible for their recent design decisions.

Although, as is typical with the mass-media there are plenty of over-generalizations and incorrect facts. For example, if this face-lifted model is a 2005 model, it will be no different than the schedule for the e46 facelift-- introduced in 99, facelifted for 2002 - so BMW's assertion that its not an "early facelift" does hold water. Of course, the details of how they're implementing the facelift are probably due to the poor sales and negative reaction--although, BMW would claim that they plan out the facelift at the same time as the original (although I think this is probably BS). I also question the last sort of editorialized comment about how the trunk was a last minute decision. I think Bangle and company wanted it that way from the beginning-- I don't think it was "tacked on" at the last minute. The part about how you have to use the i-drive for everything is also unfair-- stuff like climate control, seat heaters, etc can be accomplished w/ regular buttons (although they may be placed in screwy locations in the case of the e65). And, the quote from the Lexus dealer that it takes an hour to just learn to drive the e65 is complete BS-- yeah it has a ridiculous, non-standard start procedure-- but it probably takes even the most dense person about 5 minutes to learn that (not saying that's an excuse for the contrived and ridiculous "just to be different" start procedure).

Regardless, BMW needs to get a lot of this negative mainstream press to make them change their stupid ways.

Last edited by bmw325; 10-30-2003 at 01:22 PM.
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  #15  
Old 10-30-2003, 01:19 PM
mbr129 mbr129 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdz
let's be honest and get in tune with the demographic.

people who buy the luxo barges aren't exactly placing a premium on the "driving experience". it's at the level of prestige and some sort of je ne sais pas --> but they want some level of understated elegance. i'm sure most have a playcar in the garage for the weekends...if you've seen or read about the demographics for the S class or 7 series buyer, they make a lot of money.

so, basically, it IS based on looks.

and it's a done deal. the car is getting restyled because it's getting whopped. even Jon Shafer prefers the new A8.
I agree 100%. It's all about looks, comfort, and image.
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  #16  
Old 10-30-2003, 02:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdz
even Jon Shafer prefers the new A8.
I really like the E65 as it is. However, I do admit to liking the style of the LS430, S-class, E-class and the new XJ. I don't like the new A8 at all. In fact, the more I see of it, the more I dislike it. Some people dislike the E65 because it is too flashy, too far-fetched or too extreme. I dislike the A8 for the total opposite reason-- it is far, far to dull and boring. It just looks like an obese A4 to me. In fact, I don't really like the styling of any of Audi's new models.
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Old 10-30-2003, 05:54 PM
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Must be the Russian mafia buying them. They're known to have exquisite taste in cars.
Hey now. You gonna tell me there's something wrong with Brabus'ed MBs?
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  #18  
Old 10-30-2003, 05:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SARAFIL
I really like the E65 as it is. However, I do admit to liking the style of the LS430, S-class, E-class and the new XJ. I don't like the new A8 at all. In fact, the more I see of it, the more I dislike it. Some people dislike the E65 because it is too flashy, too far-fetched or too extreme. I dislike the A8 for the total opposite reason-- it is far, far to dull and boring. It just looks like an obese A4 to me. In fact, I don't really like the styling of any of Audi's new models.
Funny--out of all those cars, the new A8 is my favorite (with the XJ and E being very close). The LS and e65 should not even be mentioned in the same breath as far as I'm concerned-- they're orders of magnitude lower on the "elegant design" scale. Anyway, I finally saw a new A8 in person the other day and thought it looked absolutely gorgeous-- I couldn't stop staring at it. I do see what you mean by "big A4", but IMO that's not a bad thing-- and the longer length makes the form even more elegant and sophisticated looking. OTOH, The older gen A8 seemed even more blatantly "big A4", and bland-- I never liked it much. Of the current Audi models, I like the A4 and A8-- don't really like the A6 and TT. The interior of A8 also puts all the others to shame.
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Old 10-30-2003, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robg
Funny--out of all those cars, the new A8 is my favorite (with the XJ and E being very close).



I don't like the A8 at all. It looks even worse with those nasty 20-spoke wheels they have as an option. (Since when are the optional upgraded wheels supposed to make the car look worse?) The back is ugly, the front is bland, and the side profile is nothing to write home about.

I haven't used it yet, but I also can't understand how MMI is a "simplified iDrive"... I can utilize iDrive at any time by using the single controller and going through the various menus/pages. Adding a bunch of buttons around the controller, thus requiring me to use a combination of button pushes and controller inputs, doesn't seem any easier to me. Maybe it just seems easier to someone that hasn't used either system before, because at least the MMI makes them feel like they can make sense of it. At first glance, iDrive might seem impossible, but after a few minutes of fiddling with it, I don't know how anyone couldn't pick up on at least some of the basic controls.
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Old 10-30-2003, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by robg
Funny--out of all those cars, the new A8 is my favorite (with the XJ and E being very close). The LS and e65 should not even be mentioned in the same breath as far as I'm concerned-- they're orders of magnitude lower on the "elegant design" scale. Anyway, I finally saw a new A8 in person the other day and thought it looked absolutely gorgeous-- I couldn't stop staring at it. I do see what you mean by "big A4", but IMO that's not a bad thing-- and the longer length makes the form even more elegant and sophisticated looking. OTOH, The older gen A8 seemed even more blatantly "big A4", and bland-- I never liked it much. Of the current Audi models, I like the A4 and A8-- don't really like the A6 and TT. The interior of A8 also puts all the others to shame
Agreed 100%.

I saw a new A8 on the road the other day and I honestly was struck by how drop-dead beautiful it was. Just gorgeous.

I, too, thought the prior-gen A8 was very bland. But the new one looks great.

Remember, most people with $70-90K to drop on a large sedan are pretty conservative, athletes and celebrities aside. Whether anyone want to admit it or not, middle-aged and older white men buy most of the cars in this class. I have yet to see an old white man piloting an E65.
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Old 10-30-2003, 06:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TD
I have yet to see an old white man piloting an E65.
With the exception of 4 or 5 cars, every single E65/66 we've sold has been sold to a white, middle-aged or older male. So much for your theory.

And, both of you might find it interesting that I actually LIKED the previous-gen A8 (before they facelifted it in 2000(?), that is). When it was first released, it was one of my favorite luxury sedans, at least style-wise.
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Old 10-30-2003, 06:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SARAFIL


I don't like the A8 at all. It looks even worse with those nasty 20-spoke wheels they have as an option. (Since when are the optional upgraded wheels supposed to make the car look worse?) The back is ugly, the front is bland, and the side profile is nothing to write home about.

I haven't used it yet, but I also can't understand how MMI is a "simplified iDrive"... I can utilize iDrive at any time by using the single controller and going through the various menus/pages. Adding a bunch of buttons around the controller, thus requiring me to use a combination of button pushes and controller inputs, doesn't seem any easier to me. Maybe it just seems easier to someone that hasn't used either system before, because at least the MMI makes them feel like they can make sense of it. At first glance, iDrive might seem impossible, but after a few minutes of fiddling with it, I don't know how anyone couldn't pick up on at least some of the basic controls.
Agree on the 20 spoke wheels-- they don't look good. I still think the a8 w/ bad wheels looks 100x better than the e65 w/ good-looking wheels. As far as the MMI goes-- I haven't looked in detail at an A8's dash-- but I would measure the success of it based on what they chose NOT to include in the MMI. Do they let you perform all of the basic functions you could, say, in an e46 or A4 without going to the MMI? If not, I agree that its almost as assinine as the i-drive. Haven't used it-- but I have read somehwat informed reviews that say that the "hard buttons" make using it significantly faster and easier than i-drive. The other thing that the MMI has going for it is that Audi actually made th knob look and feel good-- unlike BMW's cheap fake aluminum knob that could've come off a child's toy. IMO, the German makers just need to get over this infatuation w/ little control knobs and go w/ touch snesitve screens (and hard buttons for all the functions you could accomplish in a more basic car such as an e46 or a4) as Lexus has for years,-- not revolutionary-- but common sense. You shouldn't be using these things too often (if at all) while you're driving if they've done their job right-- so the fact that the control knobs are within easier reach than a touch screen is a moot point.
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Old 10-30-2003, 06:42 PM
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Old 10-30-2003, 06:45 PM
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Also forgot to mention-- I saw a black A8 on the road over the weekend-- and for the first time in a long while, I wanted to give the driver a thumbs up. It is just stunning on the road. My one complaint is that they've made the grille a little too large-- i guess they've been somewhat influenced by BMW's cartoonish kidneys.
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Old 10-30-2003, 06:47 PM
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From a hands-on sales perspective, I can say that we do sell a decent amount of 7 series cars. Since I came on board after the e65 was launched, obviously I don't have a way to compare current sales with e38 sales.

The other day I asked for some thoughts/comments from one of the veterans on the new 7 and he said that although it's a great car, it's nothing like the e38. Apparently those cars used to move off the lot about as quickly as they could get them in. 12 to 15 a month was the norm whereas now it seems to be closer to 5-7.
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