A greedy BMW continues to shoot itself in the face
This is a press photo of a 2014 435i, apparently equipped with some sort of M sport package. I want to throw up.
Meanwhile, the BMW of the 1980s, 1990s, and even the 2000s is rolling in its grave.
This is a disgrace. BMW, riding wave after wave of commercial success, is throwing every sacred brand principle — every concept that makes BMW, BMW — out of the window.
The trend started in earnest with the introduction of the first-generation X5 — a BMW SUV, really? — but it was kept in careful check in the portfolio. Even though the company produced a “hot” version in the 4.8is, it was careful to avoid the M label. M is for authentic performance models. An SUV isn’t a performance model, by definition, whether you throw a giant engine in it or not.
But years later, BMW finally tossed dirt on its performance brand by producing the X5 and X6 M.
Now, we’ve got the tricolor badge carelessly slapped on the front quarter panel of a 435i. A good year (or more) before its introduction, the M4 has already lost some of its luster.
And that’s not all. One of the staunchest believers in RWD in the entire automotive industry, BMW now plans to introduce an FWD platform. Physics dictate that FWD is not a driver’s drivetrain. It’s a marginally safer configuration for novice drivers, and it’s cheaper to produce. But it’s not appropriate for a BMW. Ten years ago, executives knew this: it’s why the company produces FWD models under the MINI name. It’s also why xDrive is biased toward the rear wheels.
This is textbook brand dilution. That doesn’t matter for a brand like Chevrolet, Ford, or Infiniti that revamps itself as a matter of course every few years — but this is BMW. You can count on a single hand the global corporations with BMW-level tradition and brand equity.
Greed is the explanation. Anything with the Roundel on it sells, the argument goes. Expand into a bunch of decidedly un-BMW markets, glue the badge on, and watch the money print itself.
I was hopeful that the downward spiral might correct itself with the very public flop of the ungodly 5 GT, but the trend continues unabated. Americans now have access to four varieties of BMW SUVs, M-branded cars that aren’t Ms, and, soon, FWD models.
What’s next to go, the Hofmeister kink?
The company needs to take a good, hard look at its history, what it represents, and what it wants to represent in another decade or 50 years. I don’t think a single BMW employee is interested in making the X6 part of their legacy.