Picked this up from another BMW forum where someone wrote to Bimmer mag "Tech Q&A" and got a response:
Reading in the Tech Q&A section in issue number 69, there was an individual that expressed concern over purchasing a pre-owned E46 330i. In response you stated that the reason why BMW initiated the no cost warranty program was to sell more cars and save money, and that these cars will not be able to run on original parts for over 200,000 mls. going by the BMW's recommended maintenance schedule. Reading this, and being a die hard BMW enthusiast I pondered the thought, and came to a a conclusion that perhaps you can elaborate on.
First, BMW puts it's cars through rigorous testing to ensure that they're as durable as possible and will last the duration of miles tested(which is more than any of these cars will probably ever see). I'm more than sure the recommended scheduled maintenance intervals were derived from observation and conclusion in testing during the development trials, and I'd think that the engineers would never recommend servicing intervals that the car couldn't handle in the long run(oil changes included). The maintenance schedule for NA market cars is more than likely no different from BMW cars sold elsewhere in the world, so I cannot imagine the free maintenance program as a cost saving measure for BMWNA. Could it be possible that maybe perhaps that BMW has engineered it's latest generation of cars to a standard we have yet to comprehend? Automotive technology has advanced to a whole another time and place, farther than it was ten, even five years ago.
Secondly, haven't independent garages updated their systems to cope with the advances in automotive technology to do electronic diagnosis and repairs of problems? If they haven't then they will surely lose business and a future.
I have yet to buy my first BMW, but am on the way there. I'm one of many that doesn't buy a car just to keep it for four years then swap it for something else. I buy cars to keep them for several years and run them into the ground, or at least as much as I can. Not to do so in a BMW just doesn't make sense, to me at least. BMW's have always come across as being very durable and well built cars, sure they're in need of special attention for servicing, maintenance, and repairs, but that doesn't make them cars that won't last well into 200k+ mls?
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Another element of BMW's "lifetime fill" oils and eliminated maintenance is that governments in the U.S. and Europe are pressuring car manufacturers to produce less liquid and solid waste during maintenance.
But there is really no question that free scheduled maintenance and the demise of maintenance in general was originally the result of marketing -- BMW basically said so back in the 1990s when free scheduled maintenance debuted. It was part of a marketing effort to counter the widely (and correctly) held perception that BMWs are high-maintenance cars. In fact, they still are -- they just don't get maintained anymore unless the owner takes control of the situation. Anything can be maintenance free -- just don't maintain it. Then it when it fails, buy a new one. In fact, this is a fairly universal concept in our society.
The cost-cutting component flows from the fact that BMW eliminated most scheduled maintenance as soon as they started paying for it during the warranty period.
New BMW models are tested extensively, albeit not as extensively as they used to be due to vastly increased pressure to get the cars into production ahead of other manufacturers. However, I disagree that the testing paradigm today is to ensure the cars are as durable as possible. I think the new service life paradigm -- and therefore the testing paradigm -- is to ensure the cars do not suffer major drivetrain failures within the longest possible factory warranty period, which is 100,000 miles. For the most part, BMW has succeeded in this goal. While there is no shortage of BMWs with broken automatic transmissions (resulting from failure to change ATF and filter) within the first 100,000 miles, most of these cars are covered by a four-year/50,000-mile warranty rather than the six-year/100,000-mile warranty of the 6 and 7 Series and the CPO program. Moreover, I have never seen a BMW with a six-year/100,000-mile warranty go out of warranty on the basis of mileage. I'm sure it happens, but I've never seen it. Note the CPO warranty time component starts not when you buy the car but when the car was first placed in service. Anyway, I digress...
Current generation BMW longevity is anyone's guess because the cars are simply too new. However, BMW's current scant maintenance schedule has been with us since 1998 and it's affect on the long-term durability of the E36 3 Series and early E39 5 Series is starting to become apparent with worn out drivetrain components between 100,000 and 200,000 miles. It's an anachronism destined for the dustbin of history, but when BMWs got driveline oil changes every 30,000 miles, manual gearboxes and differentials almost never wore out, ever.
I have seen no quantum leap in technology that is going to change all this, and in fact if you look at a disassembled E90 3 Series differential it's obvious that it is far inferior from a durability standpoint to earlier differentials. The pinion bearing and oil capacity, in fact, has grown steadily smaller in each differential since the E30 3 Series. With the E90, BMW went from a far superior tapered roller bearing to an old fashioned ball bearing on the differential pinion -- and if that wasn't bad enough, they put it in a plastic bearing cage! And they eliminated the drain plug, so you can even fully drain the 0.25 quart of oil! (Even if you maintain the new diffs, many technicians think that plastic bearing cage is going to break anyway.) The quantum leaps in technology are devoted to making the drivetrain components lighter, not more durable, and in the process of lightening durability is often compromised as in the case of manual gearboxes and differentials.
Modern synthetic lubricants are, of course, excellent. But no lubricant is good forever, or a "lifetime."
Independent BMW shops are fully entitled to purchase the BMW GT-1 Service Computer (which is currently being replaced with another mega-expensive service computer), along with the Internet service that goes with it. Cost is $25,000 for the computer and $2,000 per year for online access. In fact, many of them have. They have banded together to form a professional organization: The International Association of Independent BMW Service Professionals (www.bimrs.org).
Without the factory supported diagnostic equipment, regular maintenance and repairs are still possible on the cars, but electronic diagnosis is iffy even with good aftermarket diagnostic equipment.
Finally, the solution for folks who want to buy a new BMW and keep it past the warranty period is to maintain the car pursuant to the old maintenance schedule and pay for it yourselves. That's what I do with my 2005 Dinan S2-325Ci. See attached old school maintenance schedule.
Bimmer Magazine Tech Q&A