“The ultimate driving machine” – The perfect slogan?

Interesting | November 4th, 2009 by 27
bmw logo 11 530x500 The ultimate driving machine   The perfect slogan?

Probably one of the most recognizable slogans amongst car manufacturers around the globe, BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine” tag line,  has served the Munich based …

Probably one of the most recognizable slogans amongst car manufacturers around the globe, BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine” tag line,  has served the Munich based company well over the years. Used in North America, the tag line is simple, descriptive, to the point and most important of all, it is identifiable with the brand.

Many companies can certainly come up with clever slogans, but if they don’t “stick” to the brand or transcend the products they represent, then they are lost in a sea of three to five word sentences and it’s back to the drawing board so to speak.

So what is it about BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan that actually makes it work? Simple, BMW has backed up their claim quite well with cars that are simply thrilling to drive. The slogan, now nearly 34-years-old, was originally created under the reign of Bob Lutz by a relatively unknown ad-agency, Ammirati & Puris.  Ammirati & Puris caught the attention of Lutz by their impressive Fiat ads and it was consider a gamble to go with such an underdog agency.

bmw logo 11 The ultimate driving machine   The perfect slogan?During the 1970’s, Baby Boomers were out of college, making money and ready to spend their hard earned dollars. What better way to reflect your success than on a premium automobile? When shopping for a car, or anything for that matter, it is hard to ignore a product backed with the claim of being “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, especially when their fathers’ for the past two decades have been parking sloppy, overweight Buicks in their driveways. I’m not trying to generalize, but you get the point…

It’s safe to say that Lutz’s gamble paid off handsomely and was a key to BMW’s success in the 1970s and up through the present day.

In 2006, a rumor started that BMW toys with the idea of dropping the synonymous tag line and the Bavarian automaker was to be represented by the tag line, “A Company of Ideas”. The slogan came from the desire to cater to the “Creative Class” and to evoke amongst consumers, and competition alike, that BMW was an organization that wasn’t afraid to push the envelope and make cars that questioned conventional design and engineering. Some say it was merely a rumor that came from marketing genius Al Reis in an AdAge column and also, BMW denied the claim immediately. There was also a petition that circled the interwebs to stop the decision of dropping the tag line.

Thankfully, BMW never went through with the decision nor we know exactly if there were any plans to really change the slogan.

Although I do agree with the overall concept of the slogan being somewhat of a fit for BMW, I don’t feel that it would have been an appropriate replacement for what has worked for so many years, nor did it describe the core competency of the company. Also, “A Company of Ideas” was much too broad and could have been applied to any company. When you drive a BMW you simply cannot deny the fact that they make automobiles that are more than a point A to point B car, more than a means of transportation. There is spirit behind these cars, these are drivers cars and are meant to be enjoyed.

They are “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.

A tag line ultimately does one thing and that is…..to keep a promise. The ability to keep that promise across the board, throughout all the products a company offers, is often a feat that is overlooked by the understated ability of sheer consistency. In my opinion BMW does just that. The bimmer is  a “driver’s car” first and everything else second.

When you are buying a BMW, you are buying something a bit different, something special and something you are proud of driving. I feel that “The Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan is timeless, genius and just plain works. But in a digital age and with BMW facing a different buyer today than they did 34 years ago, do you feel that it’s time for a change?

For those readers that were around before BMW was known as “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, does the power and effectiveness still hold true today? Many of you have described sheer irateness towards the “Joy” campaign associated with the all new Z4 roadster and most recently the X1. If you had the opportunity to do so, what would you make the next BMW slogan?

Share your thoughts in the comments section.

  • Giom

    Nice article!

    I’m not thrilled by the Joy campaign… it feels a little cheep. Whenever I drive a BMW, it is joy I get from the experience, but joy is just a word. The real emotion is much more complicated and overwhelming than this one word. It’s something I can’t even put into words, other than to say – it always makes me feel very good about life and makes me want to come back for more. (Too long for a slogan, but thats the bottom line.)

    I wish they stick to “Sheer driving pleasure” for ever. Cause thats what ppl buy!

    • Chocho

      Not cheap at all, if you look at the tv commerical you can see it focuses on the driver’s expression. It is trying to convey a sense of thrill one gets from driving a bmw. That thrilling sensation comes from it’s performance and there is nothing cheap about that.

  • http://www.autocritical.com/blog AutoCritical

    I forgot about Lutz and BMW….
    I like the ‘Efficient Dynamics’ slogan, but that’s not coming from a customer point of view.

  • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

    Tough, I’m not sure what a new slogan would fit better the brand.

  • Auday

    Nice article!
    the German version of the slogan “freude am fahren” would translate nice, but it has a similar message as “the Ultimate Driving Machine”

    For me it’s not the question of the slogan, it’s all about whats behind it,… as you said when they did the “Ultimate Driving Machine” they actually did make focused drivers cars… now it looks to me like they are trying to change identity and therefor change the slogan that came with the old identity.

    The new Z4 is a perfect example, as most reviews show that this car was not designed with “A drivers car as a priority” but rather designed to be nice, soft and friendly… So it’s more a joy to own and to be in this car but not necessarily a pure “joy of driving”… it’s more appealing to an average happy person or family that like to have a nice pet and a nice car that they love without carrying the label of a hardcore driving car or a show off car, but rather just the car that’s part of the daily happy life … it’s very similar to a concept that VW was working on for a while and it’s nice and effective but it wipes out decades of BMW history with it.
    I think BMW is changing and over growing in many directions and losing their heart in the process, and that’s historically speaking the beginning of the end.

    • The Lee

      As much as I hate to say it, I fear you’re right.

      Companies such as BMW have survived throughout the decades not simply because they make good products, but because they found their niche in the market and focused on that. One of my largest fears with BMW is that they would attempt to break out of their automotive niche and become the next VW/Toyota/GM/etc. But it’s not their role to produce 46 trillion cars a year. Their target market shouldn’t be 17 year old girls who just need something cheap to get them by through the end of highschool and college.

      That’s not their role, and any attempt to seriously compete with another car maker on their terms will likely end badly.

      The “Joy” campaign, IMO, is BMW trying to hone in on Volkswagen. VW has long-since been the “cheerful” car maker. They’ve always had a bit of playfulness in their vehicles. I’m afraid that if BMW has VW in their sights in an attempt to pick up a few percentage points in the market, they will very potentially risk losing some of the qualities that have endeared them to millions of people over the years. It’s that aggressive, purpose-built, almost austere personality that is BMW. It’s not joy. It’s not fun. It’s not light-hearted. It’s not a Hallmark emotion. Those are for other people. BMW is in the business of building great drivers’ cars. IMO, they should remember their role in the automotive world and stick with it.

      • Choi

        I agree bmw’s success is based on targeting it’s niche and it has learnt it’s lesson from the Rover fiasco in not straying from the premium sector.

        However, I disagree on your take on the joy campaign. I think it is trying to convey the sense of driving pleasure one get from driving a bimmer rather then saying it is “fun” like a VW. After all, bmw’s other title is “Sheer driving pleasure”, and what better way to do it then capture that sense of satisfaction from a driver’s face. So yes, driving a BMW IS fun and the pleasure is derived from it’s performance (as seen by the old guy in the convertible from the ad).

        Remember, bmw was identified too closely with the yuppie class back in the 80’s and when the stock market crash, sales also went under because it was seen only as yuppie car. So the brand as to expand without endangering it’s core attributes. You don’t have to young, yuppie or old to enjoy driving a bimmer.

  • Matt

    I sometimes forget that I have the privilege of being a BMW customer, and not the responsibility of being in their boardroom looking at budgets, sales, and margins.
    As somewhat of a traditionalist, I questioned the use of twin turbos when the N54 was unveiled, because I felt a BMW should be naturally aspirated; and what a false judgement I made – the engine has spoken for itself. It upsets me to read that the next generation of M cars will be dropping cylinders to improve fuel efficiency, yet I’m so proud of Efficient Dynamics, and the Vision concept. I’m happy you can’t just simply slap an M package on a 323i or 328i; those options are reserved for top end cars worthy of wearing an M badge, such as the 335i. I would miss every podium in a Formula 1 season if I knew that some of the technologies they develop and test on the world’s fastest tracks would be making it into my daily commuter. I like it when people comment, “oh, a Bimmer? Don’t you find the ride a little harsh?”
    There’s a car company that expects a greater commitment from its clients: We are expected to pay close attention to our cars; to wash them using logical technique and towel systems. We research where we’ll stop before we travel. We have favourite gas stations. We know the internal codes for our vehicle’s body and engine, and are in love with others. We keep up to date with the full line-up, build new models online, and think the 135i is pretty cool even if we drive an M3. We can appreciate the M5 Saloon and GT. In return for our commitment to these vehicles, and the lifestyle they inspire, we are rewarded with models for the niche markets, high revving engines, powerful brakes, rock solid construction, and ever evolving yet always familiar innovative design.
    We give a little more in money, time, and heart…but we get it all back; and at the end of the day no one else is really providing us with “the ultimate driving machine.”
    I find the slogan makes sense. It acts as a filter – This is what we provide to the automotive market, if you buy into it than we can help you. If not, well, maybe there is another manufacturer that can better suit your needs. I miss the lines of the E46. I find Joy and a whole lot more in the commercial below. And I’m not thrilled about the idea of changing slogans. But I have the privilege of being a BMW customer, and not the responsibility of selling their cars.

    • Wolfman

      Hate to break this to you, Matt, but the actual number of true bimmer enthusiast is very few compared to the number of wankers driving bimmers. The vast majority of people who buy bimmers do not care about it’s performance, but drive them to be seen in. To them, they are just status symbols without any emotional or passionate attachment. The “ultimate driving machine” slogan is just a mark of luxury for them. Those of us who knows the performance are in the minority.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1631237176 Vaybach Khan

    the ultimate slogan of all of times…i even wrote a song to tribute the philosophy of brand which tittle ¨the ultimate riding machine¨…
    we are changing by the time,but some things should stay the same forever..and the thing about bmw that should stay the same is ˝the ultimate driving machine˝ spirit…bmw is more conservative these days(specially with new 5 series,no super car,drop out of f1…),but at other side you have x6 car like no one other,u have angels eyes,best engineered motors …so some things are changing but ˝once bmw always bmw˝…hey this is good slogan too! just imagine commercial :)

  • Parker

    What is amazing is that I just learned all of this today before reading your article in the book called “Driven” written by David Kiley. Very informative, and a great read.

  • lennardt


    “Nice article!
    the German version of the slogan “freude am fahren” would translate nice, but it has a similar message as “the Ultimate Driving Machine””

    Well ‘Freude am Fahren’ means as much as ‘pleasure by driving’, right?

  • lennardt

    oh! I forgot:
    The slogan works, because it’s the truth ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/JoeyBabz Joey Babs

    Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback. I’m glad you all enjoyed the piece! Hmmm could we say that “Pure Driving Bliss” or “Driving….Refined” could be contenders? But it’s hard to mess with perfection, I feel “The Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan is timeless and may never lose it’s luster so to speak. Tough call.

  • Diego Campoy

    thier “ultimate driving machine” slogan is perfect but if it ever needs to change I hope it will be something like “Driving, Performance. Obsesion, Addiction. ” or ” mechanical soul engeniering” or something that is still focused on what they really still are, a drivers car


    i Agree with all the guys. BMW should not change ” the ultimate driving” machine slogan. if youv’e driven a bimmer you know exactly what that stands for. and yes it is simple powerful and to the point. Driving a 325ti auto 6 cylinder, i can never get enough of that creamy smooth tone of my straight six motor. you don’t need to drive fast just keep it between 2500- 3000 rpm and the sound is just too good. sometimes driving home from work i get tired of listening to my favourite tracks, i switch the aircon of and the radio and savor the straight six tone. very very very addictable. even driving slow on the fast lane, other cars move over and pass without hooting or flashing lights becasue its the badge that sends a very suttle powerful message to the approaching car, and if need be just floor the throttle and in an instant the engine gives a marvellous tone and you blasting off. instant power no time to clear throat etc. driving a GTI looks fancy but you have to drive it fast for it to play its part and the engine sounds pathetic. My Fellow BMW drivers you know exactly what i’m talking about. I will forever be a bimmer although when it breaks costs a fortune but its worth it, because it always manages to put a grin on my face.

  • Cargirl

    BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan may have been effective, but it was not original. It was actually “borrowed” from the lead line of a famous 1967 TV ad for the Pontiac GTO:


  • Bernie

    Very thoroughly documented article, and a good expnanation, from a marketing point-of-view, of why “The Ultimate Driving Machine” has worked. But is it really technically accuare?

    I have a 2006 BMW 325i sedan. But I got it NOT because it is the “Ultimate Driving Machine”. It’s not even close, and it may have been better if we had all just used the non-triumphalist, more low-key German, “Freude am Fahren”; and let it go at that. Howver, I do enjoy its quality, design, aesthetics, cornering ability, and “sure-footedness”, not its acceleration or well-rounded vehicle capabilities as a sedan.

    But let’s look at this. Can we say perhaps that a vanilla BMW is the “Ultimate Performance Driving machine”. Well, not quite: what do we mean by “performance”? Perhaps we can say that it’s the “Ultimate Sporty Performance Driving Machine”? OK, but what about road conditions and weather? If it’s snowing and icy, and the pavement has expansion joints or tar strips, what then? My experience here has not been good, to which the chattering teeth of my rear seat passengers can attest. Perhaps we can say that a vanilla BMW is the “Ultimate Sporty Performance Clean Road Good Weather Driving Machine”.

    Great. But what do I do when my little sail boat with trailer needs to be towed. The 325i is listed as a no-towing vehicle. So substantial towing driving seems to be eliminated. Moreover, what do I do with the face chord of oak that my neighbor offered me for my wood stove this winter. I can’t seem to pack it usefully into my trunk and back seat, nor would I want to mess them up that way. So serious, grubby loading driving seems to be out the window as well.

    And there is, of course, my cabin in the North Country, with a 3000-foot dirt road through the forest, interspersed with protruding roots, boulders, dips, and bumps. I can’t say this is truly an “off road” situation, since it is a road, albeit marginal. But I’d sure hate to take out that front air dam because of poor ground clearance. Damage is a problem. I guess we can’t do unimproved road driving either.

    So, what have we got in our growing list of modifiers for the word, “driving”? Simply this: a vanilla BMW is the “Ultimate Sporty Performance Clean Improved Road Good Weather Non-towing Non-hauling Driving Machine”! Gee, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of “driving” categories left.

    So if we consider “comprehensive” as a key ingredient for the definition of “driving”, not only restricted sporty driving, then may in fact ironically discover the real “Ultimate Comprehensive Driving Machine”: a simple 4-door pick-up truck with augmented suspension to tame the “twisties”!

  • Thelonius

    The Ultimate Driving Machine is timeless! I never enjoyed driving a car until I drove a BMW! You can call it a SHOE  and it will always be an ultimate driving machine!

  • JohnnyK

    BMW’s run in my family. It’s all we use. Sure I’ve tried a couple other cars such as other luxury/sport companies, but this company outdoes them all. I’ve never had better handling in another vehicle. The reaction of the car to the driver with such precision is a mystery all on its own. The fact that when I turn a corner and don’t feel it due to a smooth ride is priceless. Not to mention all the safety parameters that can be included. BMW is, and always will be, “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/milos.mijailovic.37 Milos Mijailovic

    Make your life better BMW

  • Jrocco71

    Who wrote this article??? Their command of the English language borders on rudimentary.