Rant: The Death Of BMW’s M Brand

by Bimmerfest.com Member - TJPark01 on July 9, 2012, 7:06 pm
Pretty long rant. He makes some good points but I don't think skipping track duty makes you a poseur.



Quote:


Death Of BMW's M Brand

Bill Caswell

BMW's announcement today of the Lime Rock Edition M3 was the final nail in the coffin for me. The company that claims more 24-Hour wins at the Nürburgring than any other manufacturer just launched a track edition M3 that has no serious performance improvement over the current M3.
It's basically bolt-on Pep Boys parts like a flat bottom Knight Rider steering wheel and special paint. And I'm guessing there is a Lime Rock track map sticker somewhere or a plaque on the dash that tells you this is something special. But that's just it. This isn't something special. It's simply a marketing exercise. A fraud. Not unlike pumping a fake engine noise through the car stereo like BMW does with the M5.

It's for guys who want to be associated with racetracks but don't actually go to the track themselves. It's for the modern poser racer. A luxury version of those fast and furious Honda civics with race seats and belts but stock engines that kids drive around on the street.

I can't wait to meet the guy that buys these Lime Rock editions. He's the one that checks out of his hotel in the morning wearing his fire suit for his BMW CCA driver school session that doesn't start till 10 am because he wants the girl at the front desk to know that he is "racing" today. That guy.
The one that wears firesuits because he wants to be a racer even though he's in his street car that he takes to the train every day. That's who will buy this car.

So why is it so painful? The M brand used to mean something. Really mean something. To me and auto enthusiasts everywhere. I can't think of a performance division of a company with more creditability than BMW's motorsport brand back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
To fully appreciate this you need a little history in BMW M brand. It was created to build homologation specials. Cars built for specific racing series in minimum quantity to meet the rules. It started with the M1 in 1978. Then came hand-build 5 series cars that at one point were the fastest sedans in the world – as delivered from the factory.
Next came the original M3, known to us car guys as the E30 M3. Built by BMW for one purpose. To win races. And it won so much its known as the most winning chassis in touring car history. This was BMW's M brand.

So what is it now? Besides the M3, we have am M1 (or 1 Series M Coupe so it's not to be confused with the real M1).
To be fair, this car is amazing. I love it. But BMW built 800 or so and called it a day. Did one go racing? Not that I know of. And then there are the M brand SUVs: an X6M and a X5M. Did either of these go racing? Sort of. BMW gave one to a journalist to compete in One Lap of America this year and it got beat by a Jeep Cherokee. A Jeep Cherokee took down the M Brand. (Ed. Note: Matt Farrah should be along soon to explain how the Jeep was modified and the X5 M was not.)

Now to be fair BMW ran the new M5 - yes the one with the fake engine noises - in One Lap and it won its "Luxury Sedan" class. So my point is that BMW no longer makes high performance automobiles known as the Ultimate Driving Machine. They now make luxury automobiles that are the ultimate motorsport poser mobile.
There is no car that says "I want to pretend I'm a performance driver, a racer, but never go to the track" more than the current M brand. It's a fraud leveraging the company's rich racing history and it pisses me off.

Let's took a look at that racing history that the brand was created for. When was the last time BMW won an F1 race? Le Mans? Any of the large sports car races other than Sebring? I'm ignoring Grand Am where BMW races against KIAs and Dinan builds engines for a prototype team. That doesn't count as a factory program. About the only race on the planet that Nürburgring which happened last in the ALMS M3 car in 2010.

Ever seen that ALMS car? Its nothing like the production car we buy. It has double wishbone front suspension. EVERY M3 ever sold has McPherson front struts. And we haven't even gotten to the weirdo rear transaxle deal with its built-in air conditioning pump. Huh, was that a factory option?
My point is that BMW used to build amazing street cars to meet the rules of racing and win. Now they choose races with loose rules and bring cars nothing like the one we buy and turn around and sell us models that have nothing to do with racing other than the sticker on the dash.

So back to today's Lime Rock Edition M3 that BMW just announced. How does this thing even get approved? I can picture the conversation in the marketing department now:

BMW Marketing Guy 1: Guys we really need to leverage our M brand.

Let's release an M3 with a race track associated with it. Yeah like that big one in Germany Nutterburgerringring or something. But I hear that place is expensive to rent, maybe we should use that track near headquarters here in the US, Lime Rock?

BMW Marketing Guy 2: Yeah!

BMW Marketing Guy 1: Don't we already sponsor that track? Sweet, lets make a lime rock edition.

BMW Marketing Guy 2: Whats that mean?

BMW Marketing Guy 1: I dont know but people will think its special.

BMW Marketing Guy 2: Really? Why?

BMW Marketing Guy 1: Well, because we'll paint it a special color and add all our interior add ons like the Knight Rider wheel with the flat bottom!

BMW Marketing Guy 2: But shouldn't it have a signfiicant increase in performance to have a racetrack badge on it?

BMW Marketing Guy 1: No, No, No, the car doesn't need to be faster or handle better because we named it after a racetrack! Just the opposite. Leave the engine the same and give it one of our handling packages that we already have. Like the competition package, that sounds like it should be on a track car.


BMW's Motorsport Brand has lost its soul, and will slowly fade into marketing mediocrity. A friend pointed out another company with a rich history in racing that abandoned it roots and went after the luxury auto market: Saab.
Obviously, BMW wont go bankrupt anytime soon, but what happens when all the luxury buyers that fell in love with performance brand in the 1980's stop driving cars? I don't have that answer but three years ago I asked a marketing executive at BMW this exact question after he told me BMW was supporting Golf and Yachting.
His response was along the line of 'I don't know, I won't be working here when that happens.'
Time will tell.



Leave a Comment

You must be a registered member to comment on stories. Please take a moment to register for your free account now. If you already have an account, log in using fields below.










16 responses to Rant: The Death Of BMW’s M Brand

SunnyandRich commented:
July 9, 2012, 7:50 pm

My $0.02.

BMW sells cars. More cars = more profits. Bottom line.

It's all about the brand. BMW brand = Rolex Submariner. M brand = Rolex Daytona Chronograph. Any thing with three Mmm stripes these days will sell, from an M-"package" equipped 328i to an X5.

On the other hand, there will always be those of us who bought a 2002, or an MT 328i stripper, or the last of the NA V8-powered E92 M3 (me) for the same reasons:

Driving enjoyment.

A manual gearbox.

Taut, supple steering.

A smooth willing engine.

All wrapped up in a non-descript sedan or coupe.

It's 2012, tho. Sigh.
PhillyNate commented:
July 9, 2012, 9:49 pm

This article is accurate IMHO. Thanks for posting.
logicalthought commented:
July 9, 2012, 10:03 pm

The weight of a modern BMW tells you everything you need to know about this topic.

Z4: 3263 pounds
Boxster: 2888 pounds

These are incredibly comparable cars and yet it's clear which company put in the extra engineering effort to take out the weight, and which one just doesn't give a damn.

Porsche now "out-BMWs" BMW in the sports sedan category (Panameras) and yet still makes Boxsters, Caymans and 911 GT3s, none of which can be touched by anything from BMW.
highyo commented:
July 9, 2012, 10:34 pm

meh times changes. cars change. do i miss the rattle and hum of the e46? sure. my e60 was fab too.

anyone who has driven an M car understands. it's different. i don't think they screw it up guys.

people here have gripes, some legitimate about the F10. have heard some great things about the f30 though. but as long as they make m cars (forget about the decorations, the guts) there will be something you can always count on, in whatever guise. i'm looking forward to seeing the new M3 in a few years. i know whenever i say ANY m3, i'm waving, and they're waving back. embrace the change.
solstice commented:
July 9, 2012, 11:34 pm

I would not buy this lime thingy. I wish there were cars like the GT3 or M3 CSL/GTS with 4 doors ( minus the roll cages, I need child seats ). Honest passive, mechanical, hydraulic cars with the loving expert tuning of the best motorsport divisions at the legendary brands. Build enthusiasts cars damn it, not luxury barges. Use the technology that gives the best feel and enjoyment today not what is deemed "the future". If all electronic garbage becomes better enthusiast choices than the analogue mechanical beautifully engineered stuff change at that time, not now. Use modern high tech materials to reduce weight and increase structural rigidity but stay away from computer controlled chassis and steering for now. The limerock M3 is still an E92 M3 and a real M imo I just wish the future M takes a few steps in the less is more philosophy. Simplify then add lightness as the Lotus guy said.
Chuck W. commented:
July 10, 2012, 11:08 am

Mr. Caswell makes some great points. It appears BMW has gone from producing M Series race cars to producing great money making street cars. It is all about the bottom line. I have a 2012 535I that I bought with the M Sport package and I honestly feel awkward having M badges on this car.
GrussGott commented:
July 14, 2012, 8:54 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck W. View Post
Mr. Caswell makes some great points. It appears BMW has gone from producing M Series race cars to producing great money making street cars. It is all about the bottom line. I have a 2012 535I that I bought with the M Sport package and I honestly feel awkward having M badges on this car.
My ill thought-through rant:

Mr Caswell doth protest too much: if he wants a race car then he should build one; Don't whine because BMW's 21st century mass market production factory won't do it for you... really?

Does any serious race car driver buy a factory built car with A/C, stereo, and leather interior and head to the track matrix?

As to "M used to mean something":
Uhhhh... You mean your poseur ass used to like the brand, I.e., the marketing? But now you dont because it's not quite poseur enough so you're calling people who like a fast factory luxury car poseurs?

Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.

I Have a e93 and before that an S4. I never tracked the S4 and won't the e93. Sometimes i care about its fanciness but usually I don't. I just like my luxury cars fast and wicked sounding. I like scaring myself on the way to work. I like being able to pass anybody anytime and corner better and brake faster. If I appreciated the cool looks more I'd probably buy the orange thing but I don't so I have Jerez black. I do like my 2 tone interior though. I also like the engineering. I'd buy a koenigsegg if I wasnt too lazy to make a few mil.

Grow up Mr Caswell, and realize who you are ... I have*

(*except in those moments at wide open throttle when i get slight air coming off the freeway entry ramp and giggle like a little girl ... Or that killer sweeper freeway exit s-turn when I downsift to 3rd ... Or ...)
SunnyandRich commented:
July 14, 2012, 8:58 pm

Awesome post ^^^
Capobranco commented:
July 17, 2012, 12:19 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by highyo View Post
.... i know whenever i say ANY m3, i'm waving, and they're waving back....
hmmm....not a fan of this special edition but I do not see it in apocalyptic terms - IMO just another BMW offering to extract a few more dollars from a platform in its sunset years.

I am not certain, but from casual observation, I do not think that the M3 lends itself to poseur duty. I adore my M3 aesthetically and dynamically, but I have found it to be
virtually invisible - after all the M3 is just a tweaked 3. I do live in an area where BMWs are ubiquitous, and are viewed as another form of basic transportation.

Over the last eight months, I have met a few M3 drivers. A passion for driving is the thread common to all. My experience has been that M3 drivers - young and old - are more concerned about what their cars do for them on the road, and less about what the car says about them. I am sure there are a few poseurs lurking about, but their choice of an M3 is not the obvious one.

My PCA experience was quite different - a significant contingent of owners always considered their cars to be a fashion accessory. You drive an M3 cuz you love the driving experience - bright orange paint is jus' a bit of fun. BTW when I see another M3, I always wave, and guess what, I usually get a wave back!
logicalthought commented:
July 17, 2012, 10:37 pm

>>My PCA experience was quite different - a significant contingent of owners always considered their cars to be a fashion accessory.<<

I never found that (although admittedly, my heavy PCA track days all took place in the early to mid-1990s, with the New York Metro group at tracks such as Bridgehampton, Lime Rock and Watkins Glen). Most guys were shoving massive, spare-filled tool kits and sometimes even four Comp TA R-1s and a camping tent into their 911s, and other than a few one-timers who never showed up again, I don't think I ever met a better (and less pretentious, despite occasional extreme wealth) bunch of motorheads in my life.

I do, however, have my suspicions about the FERRARI club, lol.
Capobranco commented:
July 17, 2012, 11:41 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by logicalthought;6957623...[/size
, I don't think I ever met a better (and less pretentious, despite occasional extreme wealth) bunch of motorheads in my life.

......
I agree...


I was raised around Porsches and guys who lived and breathed the brand - I am sure those guys from your racing days are still breathing the Porsche fire. I still lurk over at Rennlist and find it reassuring that The Porsche brand continues to inspire. When I was speaking of a significant contingent I was referring to many who drive a 911 because it is the "correct" sports car. My next door neighbor who had a 997.2 Carrera S used to complain to me that the car was great to drive to a party, "but it would be better if it was not so hard riding and had a little play in the wheel...," really I jest not.

Many 911 cabs in my neighborhood seem to be driven by - perfectly coiffed - middle age ladies who lunch. Porsche has become the " de rigueur " sports car in my neighborhood. While today, 911s, Boxsters, Panameras, Cayennes, and Caymans seem to surround my home, I often wonder if they understand and appreciate what their cars can do, and why Porsche is a premium brand. I conclude that too often, it seems to be all about the bling.
enigma commented:
July 18, 2012, 3:50 am

I am not sure why this particular "special edition" pissed him off since there have been plenty of "special edition" M3s in different paints already. I do agree that the M brand is being abused by their marketing team to squeeze every dime from the image conscious buyers (e.g. "special edition" Ms that have only the "special" paint to show for, M-Sport packages that are nothing more than cosmetic kits, etc.).
logicalthought commented:
July 18, 2012, 7:32 am

>>While today, 911s, Boxsters, Panameras, Cayennes, and Caymans seem to surround my home, I often wonder if they understand and appreciate what their cars can do...<<

Absolutely! But your post mentioned the PCA, which is why I posted my response. I'm pretty sure that these kinds of folks never bother joining the PCA or, if they do, don't show up to more than one event. I was having a discussion the other day with someone who lamented the Cayenne and Panamera as being indicative that Porsche has lost its roots, but that hasn't stopped them from making great cars such as the Cayman S, Boxster S and 911 GT3. What's amazing is that BMW used to "own" the sports sedan category and yet by any sporting measure, the Panamera Turbo outperforms the new M5 (albeit, at a somewhat higher price). I truly think that Porche's engineers are second to none in this world (in the sub-$200,000 price category), and would love to see what they could do with a small sedan/3-series competitor.

As an aside, a friend of mine recently picked up a 1981 928 for next-to-nothing (from an estate sale), and it's amazing to me how little that car has aged (exterior design-wise) in over 30 years. In fact, I think it was so far ahead of its time that it looks just as contemporary today as it did back then (when a lot of folks thought its design was kind of bizarre and ugly).
Capobranco commented:
July 18, 2012, 11:34 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by enigma View Post
I am not sure why this particular "special edition" pissed him off since there have been plenty of "special edition" M3s in different paints already. I do agree that the M brand is being abused by their marketing team to squeeze every dime from the image conscious buyers (e.g. "special edition" Ms that have only the "special" paint to show for, M-Sport packages that are nothing more than cosmetic kits, etc.).
Quote:
Originally Posted by logicalthought View Post
What's amazing is that BMW used to "own" the sports sedan category and yet by any sporting measure, the Panamera Turbo outperforms the new M5 (albeit, at a somewhat higher price). I truly think that Porche's engineers are second to none in this world (in the sub-$200,000 price category), and would love to see what they could do with a small sedan/3-series competitor.....
Yep.....

To the first point - if BMW had named this edition "Orange Crush" - no problem - but to issue a commemorative that pays homage to Lime Rock smacks of crass commercialism, if not hubris. More fundamentally, perhaps Bill is alluding to a more profound reality that BMW has morphed into primarily a car company that makes luxury cars endowed with sporting pretensions but this "sportiness" is a veneer.

To quote logicalthought

" the weight of the modern BMW tells you everything you really need to know".

The retort is that BMW has always been a luxury car maker and M works its magic on heavier BMW sedan platforms - indeed, all cars have gotten larger, heavier, and more luxurious in the last 30 years. Moreover, BMWs have always been the value play - I look forward to driving an M5 - but in the mean time perhaps the vids below of the M5 portends good things to come....even taking into account enhanced sound and the extra weight of the F10.....

M5 v. PanameraS - (roughly equivalent in price)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zsAp...yer_detailpage

M5 v PanameraTurbo - as you know the PT is much more expensive...
(by some sporting measure - the BMW outperformed the PT)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWNNV98ZjN4

Times are changing - many decry the softer direction of the 991, I really hope that the coming M3/4 is able to put the same giant grin on my face that my M3 does daily...I live in hope, but I am apprehensive.

Sorry if this post is somewhat contradictory...maybe kinda reflects where BMW is in the market place, and my angst.
GrussGott commented:
July 19, 2012, 1:35 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capobranco View Post
To the first point - if BMW had named this edition "Orange Crush" - no problem - but to issue a commemorative that pays homage to Lime Rock smacks of crass commercialism, if not hubris.
I'm a casual fan of indycar (going to my second race at Sonoma in August) and F1. They make track editions of all kinds of stuff: t-shirts, hats, pens, etc etc

People like those things because it reminds them of the track and their hobbies.

If had fond thoughts of lime rock and liked orange I'd probably buy my M3 that way.

All of those things, including the M3, are just the bric-a-brad of a hobbyist. And hobbyists like swag, even swag cars.

I wonder what the reaction would be if BMW released a batman edition.
Dave 330i commented:
July 23, 2012, 5:43 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by logicalthought View Post
The weight of a modern BMW tells you everything you need to know about this topic.

Z4: 3263 pounds
Boxster: 2888 pounds

These are incredibly comparable cars and yet it's clear which company put in the extra engineering effort to take out the weight, and which one just doesn't give a damn.

Porsche now "out-BMWs" BMW in the sports sedan category (Panameras) and yet still makes Boxsters, Caymans and 911 GT3s, none of which can be touched by anything from BMW.
I hope VW leaves Porsche alone and not clone and relabel them to VWs.