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Before I climb up on the soapbox, I'd like to start by saying I'd be very interested in hearing all of your opinions on what is critical to BMW's future.

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Climbing up now . . .

I have grown increasingly concerned over the percieved and perhaps real movement of BMW away from a company focused on functional (engineering) superiority towards a company focused on form (style) superiority.

The causes for this, if it indeed is the case, may be complex and many. For a start, it is possilbe the Quandt family and the BMW board may feel lucky to even have ANY company after the Rover affair. It is further possilbe that the fallout from the Rover affair is still being felt in the sense that key Management positions are filled with "Financial" experts rather than "Car Guys". There is a time when financial experts are the 'right' guys to run a company, although minimizing that time has to be the goal of any company hoping to innovate, lead, and grow.

(An old proverb says there are three people who should never run a company: (1) A drunk -- because he will sacrifice everything for his own needs, (2) A guy having an affair with his Secretary -- because he will sacrifice everything for his own foibles, and (3) An Accountant --- because he will sacrifice your customer base in the name of efficiency.)

The extend to which BMW is risking its customer base to design and financial considerations is difficult to tell. On the one hand, there are innovations like valvetronic and VANOS. On the other hand, there's flame surfacing, the 'bustle', and other 'innovations' intended to take us where we don't want to go.

The first category builds on BMW's core competence as the leading engine builder in the world. This did not come easy. BMW has led engine development since its inception as an aircraft engine builder. The original 328 wasn't great due to a superior chassis or aerodynamics -- it had a superior engine.

In time, BMW also learned the critical value of putting that superior engine technology to use through a well-tuned chassis. Witness the success of the 2002 as the best tool of all time to educate Americans on how far ahead BMW was in chassis-engine dynamics. Consider further the origin of "M" and everything that has flowed from that. In sum, what one has is about 3 generations of focused effort on being the best at something, and that something is more broadly desirable today than it ever was. Seemingly every other automotive OEM benchmarks based upon BMW when it comes to engine performance, chassis dynamics, and passive safety technology.

Contrast this rich history and focus with some of the things now moving it away from its 'conservative form-follows-function' roots. Indeed, BMW loves technology, and when it comes to safety technology ---- BMW is a leader. Why? Because safety tech is passive. It does its job and you, as the driver, need not be involved. It's like insurance.

Now consider I-drive. High-tech, but what does it suffer from? It is not passive. It is easier to operate for some things, more difficult for others. When such a system was first considered for use on the platform BMW sells to its oldest market segment, did anyone consider the potential challenge of 'negative transfer'.

Negative Transfer is a phrase pychologists use to explain how a highly learned technique can lead to a negative outcome when the same technique is applied to a new system. Good examples are provided by aircraft controls. If a pilot flies for 20 years and every aircraft he ever flew had throttles that go forward for more power and back for less --- consider the liklihood of mistakes if one reverses that pattern on a new plane.) Changes in patterned human behaviour is risky. Changes in patterned human behaviour of older people can at times be . . . foolish.

Although BMWs efforts with I-drive may be noble, much more work (and consumer understanding) is needed. The concept of less clutter would have been better achieved also were it not for all those seat controls on the center console. What an incredible mixed message that sends.

But, bigger issues are at hand. Is the company moving away from its conservative form-follows-function roots? Perhaps the 'bustle' trunk is illustrative. Have you guys read C. Bangle's comments on his rationale supporting the design. I've read it, and it makes no sense from an engineering standpoint. The 'golfbag' defense holds no water.

Now consider flame-surfacing from an engineering standpoint. The way it is discussed, one would assume 'efficiency' is implied. Right? Flames must flow in the most efficient, aerodynamic patterns, right? Hence, 'flame-surfaced' vehicles would be expect to have what? Lower coefficients of drag, right?

So --- why is the new 7er less efficient through the air than the new Lexus flagship. Can anyone put their fingers on a half dozen article naming the chief designer of the Lexus, his or her design philosophy, etc., etc. What does this tell us about flame-surfacing? Is is used on the BMW-Williams Cars?

I could write a whole Case Study on this topic, but I think it can be summed up as follows:

Any company can really only convey one message. It's choice of message (and its messenger) had better be cautiously and deliberately considered. The message had better convey the company's raison-de-etre, its core competency, and its leadership role in a field meaningful to its customers and potential customers.

BMW needs to get its engine-buildiers, chassis-tuners, and safety-experts back in the spotlight, first in the boardroom, and then in the media.

All else is folly.

7-time BMW owner since 1982. Will look elsewhere if the new 3er and 5er go the way of the 7.

Ausgang

'01 330i
 

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Ausgang said:
BMW needs to get its engine-buildiers, chassis-tuners, and safety-experts back in the spotlight, first in the boardroom, and then in the media.
I agree with all of your statements but with one question...I don't think BMW is sacraficing safety
They are increasingly safe vehicles...even the new Mini has 6 airbags.
 
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Re: Re: Opinion on core BMW values

in_d_haus said:


I agree with all of your statements but with one question...I don't think BMW is sacraficing safety
They are increasingly safe vehicles...even the new Mini has 6 airbags.
I think in this regard, Ausgang's point was to return to highlighting engines, chassis and safety and forget about being a stylish fashion accessory (as fashions go out of style).
 

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Re: Re: Re: Opinion on core BMW values

TD said:


I think in this regard, Ausgang's point was to return to highlighting engines, chassis and safety and forget about being a stylish fashion accessory (as fashions go out of style).
I don't think that they have gotten away from any of that. I mean, SMG, Dynamic Drive, Valvetronic, DSC, Active Roll bars, lots of airbags :dunno:
 

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Thank you Ausgang for one of the best post on this board. :thumbup:

If BMW does need to get back to basics and focus on it's core competencies it's obvious what will happen:

#1: It's traditional customers will move elsewhere! Not that this is that big of a problem for BMW, because it is currently breaking it's sales records. They will replace their traditional customers with new ones who really like this new breed of vehicles.

#2: BMW will slow as a the leader of the pack, allowing competitors who have been nipping at it's heels to gain ground, perhaps even surpassing it.
 

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Re: Re: Re: Opinion on core BMW values

TD said:


I think in this regard, Ausgang's point was to return to highlighting engines, chassis and safety and forget about being a stylish fashion accessory (as fashions go out of style).
Angel Eyes? Z's on the side of cars? Having 200 different colours and types of interior trim? :confused:
 

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I'm beginning to sound like a BMW apologist...

I actually think in some ways BMW is returning to their core value. Where they have wondered off track is the E46 3 series. When they made the 3 series, they made a car that's larger, softer, and not nearly as competitive as the E36 against the competition. The new 7 series, the new Z4, 1 series, and the new 5 series will all have one thing in common: They will be at the forefront of the performance envelop in each of their respective category (well, the Z4 may lag a year or so behind until the Valvetronic engines are ready).

And as far as styling cues are concerned, it's not like you can sell a product without a pretty package around it. If you can, Subaru WRXes will be trumping BMWs in sales. Again, BMW is trying to get back to the forefront of competition. In two years you'll see other car manufacturers trying to copy BMW in style, like how Lincoln, Mitsubishi, Lexus...etc all copied part of BMW's last generation style in their current generation cars.

Lastly, take a look at the CS1 concept. There's more 2002tii than all the BMW models in the last 10 years combined. People complain about the hoodline cut above the grill not being traditional BMW? Traditional BMW hoodlines have ALWAYS cut above the grill. The only ones to deviate from that "tradition" are the E38, E39, and E46. The high shoulder line, the round tail lights, the hoodline...Everything is just a fresh take on the traditional BMW styling cues. :dunno:
 

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The HACK said:

Lastly, take a look at the CS1 concept. There's more 2002tii than all the BMW models in the last 10 years combined.
With all due respect Dan, the CS1 says "Honda" to me much more than "2002tii".
 

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It seems to me that perhaps BMW is feeling that it can start to take some risks considering the (despite the Rover debacle) good position they're in in the industry. In a market where perhaps only Toyota and Honda have less problems overall (political, financial or otherwise), it seems BMW can afford to take some chances now, hope they pay off and be heralded as innovators once again, or fail and not take such a big hit.

Its good to see the majority of these 'core values,' such as drivetrain and active/passive safety, remaining and advancing during this time, but the question remains on whether or not this is enough to retain existing customers during this risk-taking period. Although I think most of us would like to think that people flock to BMW because of its engineering aspects, I think especially now, a majority initially buy BMWs for fashion and prestige, but STAY because of the engineering.

If these styling (and other, such as i-drive) 'innovations' work in luring new customers without letting the engineering side suffer and losing existing ones, so much the better. If all this serves is to alienate its customer base and simultaneously fail to attract the 'fashionable,' we can hope that, as a smaller company, they have the ability to make a reasonably quick turnaround.

Frankly, I wish BMW would start spending a little more time and effort improving in the areas many of us ***** about, mostly fairly minor things that shouldn't be too tough to achieve. The two that come to mind are the spotty quality issues and the rather poor customer service. As the technological differences between various carmakers shrink, I think those two factors is what will ultimately make or break a company; not styling or frivilous toys.
 

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I agree with HACK, I think that BMW is trying to stay ahead of the curve and reteturn more to the core values. The 1 series is proof of this. There is a lot more competition now.
 

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in_d_haus said:


With all due respect Dan, the CS1 says "Honda" to me much more than "2002tii".
How's that? All of BMW's virtues are presented in the CS1 concept.

Lightweight, corners like a sports car with practicality of a sedan, with all the traditional BMW styling cues, incredibly advanced engine design...etc.

:dunno: Just because you don't like the design doesn't mean it's not going to be well received elsewhere.
 

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The HACK said:
...Where they have wondered off track is the E46 3 series. When they made the 3 series, they made a car that's larger, softer, and not nearly as competitive as the E36 against the competition...
I agree with what you said, except what I quoted above... If they "wondered off track" as far as the 3er is concerned, it all started with the E36... Have you ever seen an E30 parked next to an E36? The E46 was just the "natural" consequence...

Anyway, regardless of whether the E36 started it all or not, I think the E46 has never made the 3er as competitive as it is now. I mean, it took forever for someone to come up with a car that could dethrone the 330 as the best choice under 40K for instance... Actually, until the 6-sp G35 comes out, the 330 is still king AFAIC... And it'll always be. Shaving off 0.2-0.3s from 0-60 is still not enough for me to give up on BMW...

Plus, aren't you forgetting something? What about the E46 M3? Which other "more competitive" option do you have in the SAME price range? Z06? Maybe, but as a former C5 owner, I can assure you they're in different leagues...
 

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The HACK said:


How's that? All of BMW's virtues are presented in the CS1 concept.

Lightweight, corners like a sports car with practicality of a sedan, with all the traditional BMW styling cues, incredibly advanced engine design...etc.

:dunno: Just because you don't like the design doesn't mean it's not going to be well received elsewhere.
Well, since we haven't seen a production one all we can go on is marketing hype about the performance of the car.

Yes, my opinion is merely that. I don't like the E65, Z4, and can only tolerate the CS1. The only thing that matter is sales and that remains to be seen for most of these vehicles. The E65 is selling better than expected in America but worse in Asia and Europe currently. We'll see.
 

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I agree that BMW is heading in the right direction. They need to stay ahead of everyone else, especially since everyone mimics them so bad. I have always been a bimmer fan, and I am enjoying each new car more than the last for the most part. If you look at all the companies trying to stick to their core values, I would have to say BMW is doing a great job at it. Especially when you look at Ford, GM, or some others. Sure Jap cars stick to thier values, its easy, cheap parts, cheap cars, but reliable. Of course they are always going to sell more, because the majority of people can only afford those cars. So they mimc cars like BMW, to add style.
 

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in_d_haus said:

The only thing that matter is sales and that remains to be seen for most of these vehicles. The E65 is selling better than expected in America but worse in Asia and Europe currently. We'll see.
I think only time will tell if BMW is truely going off course of what the original spirit of BMW means.*

However, if Bangle isn't at the helm of design, I wonder how many people will be crying about the "problems" at BMW.

Actually, if we all want to be literal about this, I think the original meaning of BMW is making war planes that kill for "Ze Germans". Talk about straying off course.
 

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The HACK said:
Actually, if we all want to be literal about this, I think the original meaning of BMW is making war planes that kill for "Ze Germans". Talk about straying off course.
They didn't make the planes, only engines. And the reason they strayed is because after the war Germany wasn't allowed to have a military and the economy was in the dumper. BMW had to build something or go out of business.
 
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dredmo said:
I agree that BMW is heading in the right direction. They need to stay ahead of everyone else, especially since everyone mimics them so bad. I have always been a bimmer fan, and I am enjoying each new car more than the last for the most part. If you look at all the companies trying to stick to their core values, I would have to say BMW is doing a great job at it. Especially when you look at Ford, GM, or some others. Sure Jap cars stick to thier values, its easy, cheap parts, cheap cars, but reliable. Of course they are always going to sell more, because the majority of people can only afford those cars. So they mimc cars like BMW, to add style.
Hey cheerleaders (you know who you are)!! Dredmo is on your side. Do you guys wish to rethink your positions?
 

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TD said:


Hey cheerleaders (you know who you are)!! Dredmo is on your side. Do you guys wish to rethink your positions?
Even the blind squirrel finds the nuts sometimes. :lmao:
 

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in_d_haus said:


They didn't make the planes, only engines. And the reason they strayed is because after the war Germany wasn't allowed to have a military and the economy was in the dumper. BMW had to build something or go out of business.
Yup. Engines only... And just out of sheer curiosity... Wasn't it helicopter engines they used to make? :dunno:
 

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ALEX325i said:


Yup. Engines only... And just out of sheer curiosity... Wasn't it helicopter engines they used to make? :dunno:
Not a whole lot of choppers in WWII. Fighter planes with durable radial engines though? Well, now. :p
 
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