Editorial: BMW’s Ultimate Gamble

Featured Posts, Interesting | July 7th, 2010 by 43
gambling

Number ONE Strategy In the midst of a huge economic downturn, when car manufacturers are stumbling with product liability issues or just trying to stay …

Number ONE Strategy

In the midst of a huge economic downturn, when car manufacturers are stumbling with product liability issues or just trying to stay solvent (or recover from bankruptcy), BMW is announcing and delivering new product at an astounding rate. Is there something in the beer that allows this small (less than 2 million unit) manufacturer to outperform the likes of Toyota and GM when it comes to delivering new product?

Well maybe not the beer – as good as it is – but rather it’s the engineering. BMW set out to revolutionize their production processes in 2007 with the announcement of their Number ONE strategy. BMW is now showing the early fruits of that strategy.

The public pronouncements of the Number ONE strategy have emphasized the expected results and personnel moves needed to obtain them, but the bulk of the strategy has been left unspoken by analysts and the press.

Editorial: BMWs Ultimate Gamble

The Number ONE strategy will be achieved in carefully taken steps, with plenty of feedback along the way. But some of those steps are becoming apparent as BMW brings its new product to the public.

Uncommon Commonality

Platform sharing isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that is often reviled by enthusiasts. Memories of GM’s lookalike, badge engineered, A-bodies, are the first thing that comes to mind. Rather BMW is using a common platform ‘matrix’ to its advantage.

Think of the common platform as encompassing something other than a chassis and body panels. In the case of BMW it involves software, electronics, geometries, and some common hardware.

Most notably the common components include engines and transmissions. For example the N55B30 can be found across the lineup from the 740i to the 135i. Transmissions are shared in adjacent segment models as are a lot of the available electronic bells and whistles.

In fact BMW has named these common platform matrices. The L6 platform encompasses the F01 7 series, the F10 5 series, and the soon to be produced 6 series. The L4 platform handles the X5 and X6 SAVs. The L2 platform is the underpinning for the 1er, 3er, X3, and X1. The follow on L7 platform for the 1er, 3er, and others (including Mini and possibly more models) has the flexible firewall location geometry that will allow it to accommodate FWD, RWD, or AWD models.

Within the platform offerings, components such as suspensions, seats and electronics are common. But what is not are wheelbases, widths, and heights. That is the beauty of BMW’s approach. The geometry for suspension components is set and the chassis/body are built around those ‘hard’ points.

Stamping Out Similarities

The key to pulling off a common platform strategy is uncommon styling of models utilizing the same components. Styling is a BMW virtue and it can be seen in the diverse products that share common foundations.

But this is a difficult task for a company that doesn’t sell a half a million Camrys and over one million Corrolas a year. When a production run for all variants of the 6 series may amount to fewer than one hundred thousand vehicles a year the opportunity costs of producing them weighs heavily. If BMW is to avoid the ‘same sausage in different lengths’ criticism they have to be able to produce radically different body panels for the platform’s variants.

To do that they need to have state of the art stamping processes in place. They have to be able to change out body stamping dies quickly and be able to do so as demand dictates. That calls for tight control of the tool and die making needed to build bodies and BMW has been working quietly to bring those processes in house.

The stamping operations at Leipzig and Regensburg have been expanded and some contracts to external stamping suppliers have been allowed to expire. As an example of the state of the art stamping processes BMW is utilizing, look at their use of Schuler pressing equipment.

By utilizing equipment with the flexibility to stamp small numbers of body panels on demand, BMW can utilize the enormous talents of their styling department to keep these common platform models from being too common.

Bore and Stroke

In addition to common platforms another means of reigning in costs is to adopt a common engine architecture. BMW recently announced that they are standardizing on a 500cc per cylinder displacement limit for their engines. In reality that is probably a common bore and stroke measurement across gasoline engines (and possibly a separate set of bore and stroke numbers across its diesel engine lineup).

BMW has favored ‘undersquare’ engines as of late. An undersquare engine will provide better low end torque all other parameters being held equal. And it is torque that makes an engine livable in the real world.

The cost savings start adding up when you consider that there will be common pistons, rods, rings, bearings, and the like. Those parts are shared across the 3 cylinder offerings in the entry level cars up to and including the 12 cylinder monsters that go into the Rolls Royce Ghosts.

One nagging suspicion lurks in the background at this juncture though. And that is a whispered question as to whether BMW believes that we’ve hit the practical limits of extracting efficiency from the internal combustion engine. That would lead to a heavy shift of R&D resources towards alternative powertrains.

Strategic Suppliers

BMW was recently named as one of the preferred partners for suppliers. That makes sense for BMW’s Number ONE strategy. There are certain suppliers that BMW needs to have a strategic relationship with. In particular, high cost components, that BMW does not have an advantage in manufacturing, come from strategic suppliers like Bosch and ZF.

Forming close ties with key suppliers gives BMW engineering an opportunity to adopt state of the art technology sooner in the cycle than manufacturers that have weaker ties to the supplier. Sharing engineering and not constantly harping about extracting the last penny in costs pay dividends.

Pros and Cons

In the end the Number ONE strategy is intended to propel BMW into becoming a two million unit a year manufacturer with increased profitability for each of those units. That will hopefully ensure BMW’s survival as an independent company.

The risks to the strategy is that consumers will shop down a series, for example buying a 5er instead of a 7er – or a 1er instead of 3er. If the common platform cannibalizes sales from their siblings, or that the premium pricing of its subcompact offerings cannot be maintained, there will be trouble. If those problems occur the Number ONE strategy will need to be revisited.

Regardless BMW has stolen a march on its competitors and is placing a plethora of product squarely in the sweet spot of the premium portfolio.

  • dmlgc

    I think BMW should go take a look at the BMW user forums to see how their “production processes” are fairing from the people that use their product. Take a look at the xbimmers.com x6 forum and you can see a pattern of quality issues. So in the short term BMW make think this is working, long term they may suffer the same fate as American car manufacturers that didn’t watch quality.

    • The Lee

      I assure you that BMW is WELL aware of the quality control issues with the car. You’d probably brown your pants if you saw just how many “technical service bulletins” that vehicle currently has. 117 for an ’09. Everything from eliminating the combination wrench from the tool kit to sunroof noise to poor AM/FM reception and the inability to select drive or reverse on the shifter. Trust me, BMW is damn-good at keeping tabs on their products after manufacture, and browsing an internet forum will not likely tell them anything they’re not already aware of and haven’t already addressed with a service bulletin.

      • FreudeKing

        Since the launch of this strategy, I feel that BMW has not been able to deliver that much for its customers, in fact, I feel that the customers are getting less. I also feel that this whole thing is management’s intention to boost the short term share price by issuing messages about their concentration on profits, etc.

        It is all very well telling shareholders that they will cut production costs, increase prices at the expense of volumes to get a higher profit per unit, etc. But then are you really strengthening the company to generate real value for shareholders or are you concentrating on short term things which will hinder shareholder value in the long term anyway?

        Here’s some examples:

        BMW’s major recalls this year stands at 5 to date and we are just half way through the year. Furthermore, the Z4 is cuurrently being investigated for safety issues with steering problems. This is clearly a quality problem. Like I said before, with such drastic cost cutting measure in place to please shareholders in the short term, quality issues like these will definitely pop up.

        At the beginning of the strategy, Management quoted the exact figures that they were planning to cut material costs, yet they didn’t achieve that because of the financial crisis and the sharp increase in input prices.

        Furthermore, I am not sure what they use as their internal performance measures for these managers. But if they are using a measure that encourages shrinking such as ROI or ROCE or whatever adjustments that they are making, they will shrink the company by leaving out projects that are suppose to incraese shareholder value and strengthen the brand.

        The last thing you want is for customers to see your cheapness and go to someone else. BMW is a quality brand with competitive advantage on differentiation based on superior products (i.e. quality and reliability). If these management want to build a competitive advantage on cost, then they should rather go and manage VW or Tata. Becasue BMW will never be as cost effective as Audi badged VW’s. So then the question that remains is why is BMW doing this? telling everyone about their cost cutting strategies, etc. Don’t you think BMW would have been trying its best on efficient production before this strategy came in???

        This answer is two folds:
        1.) Management’s intention is to increase shareholder’s expectations of future increase in profits so that they can boost the share price, maybe management’s bonus is based on the share price.

        2.) Really cut costs on their products and productions. This means that quality suffers, which is clearly evident in recent BMW recalls and marketing materials: Have a look at the new 5 Series catelog and feel the cheap quality magazine paper used. It will tear if you flip over the page a bit harder. Compare this to the old 5′s catelog. I mean, this is the material that BMW intends to showcase their products, which they should be proud of.

        Talking about the poor quality products – I was horrified that the new X1 lacks premium feel. Yes, it uses other 1 and 3 Series parts, but it is just lacks the premium feel of what a BMW should feel. Another example: the 5 Series door handle really feels hollow and plastic like.

        Conclusion, if BMW is embarking on this strategy just to get publicity to boost share prices, it is a very short term view. Management is also probably doing cost cutting here and there, which may end up costin BMW more in the long term (recalls, BP and Toyota exmple) as normal controls to snsure high quality would have been cut. Using of shrinking measures such as ROI or ROCE will damage the brand and not create most value for shareholders.

  • w

    100% with dmlgc

    these cars are wonderful, but I can tell you that my used BMW purchases will end with 2005-2006 models. whats the point if the resale value drops like prom dresses due to poor quality issues and almost non-existent “maintenance” schedules

    • FreudeKing

      Exactly. BMW is currently scaring its customers away if they are cutting costs at the expense of quality. Poor resale value means higher cost of ownership, a customer will think if it is justifiable. I mean, if you look at the maintenance cost of the old X5 out of motorplan, you’ll see why no one wants one.

      Yes, you want your customers to purchase new cars, but if no one is willing to buy their old cars at a good price, then they just won’t buy another new BMW as depreciation is too tremendous.

  • BMfan

    @dgmlc, I doubt if people like you can convincingly show a proof of owning an ‘xbimmer’ and the qaulity issues or are you throwing up issues from other sources?

    • FreudeKing

      just count the number of recalls to date. also consider the investigations underway by authorities.

      • FreudeKing

        recalls this year alone

  • bob

    This is not a *gamble* for BMW AG; nor, can Strategy Number ONE be described in such simple terms. Number ONE affects the entire enterprise. BMW AG’s words:

    “Value creation a top priority
    The BMW Group established this prerequisite when it
    launched its Strategy Number ONE. The vision: to become
    the world’s leading provider of premium products and
    premium
    services for individual mobility. To this end, the
    BMW Group concentrates on profitability and sustained
    value creation. The company’s four strategic pillars also
    include
    growth, shaping the future and access to technologies
    and customers.
    Everything the BMW Group does is based on the twelve
    basic principles the Board of Management defined in
    Strategy Number ONE.
    – Customer orientation – The customer and benefit for
    the customer are at the heart of everything the company
    does.
    – Peak performance –The company and all its employees
    aim to be the best.
    – Responsibility – Every employee shares the responsibility
    for the company’s success.
    – Effectiveness – Only results which have a lasting effect
    count.
    – Adaptability – Flexibility as a crucial prerequisite for
    success.
    – Dissent – As we strive to find the best solution, we are
    frank with each other.
    – Respect, trust, fairness – The basis of successful cooperation.
    – Employees – The strongest factor in a company’s success.
    – Leading by example – Every manager has to be aware
    that he / she is a role model and should act accordingly.
    – Sustainability – Acting sustainably is an element of
    our corporate responsibility and a contribution to value
    creation.
    – Society – Social responsibility is an integral part of our
    corporate self-image.
    – Independence – Sustained profitable growth secures
    the corporate independence of the BMW Group.”

    http://www.bmwgroup.com/e/0_0_www_bmwgroup_com/verantwortung/publikationen/sustainable_value_report_2008/_pdf/SVR_2008_engl_Kapitel_2.pdf

    Keen BMW followers will note that, while Number ONE was formally pronounced in the Fall of ’07, the actual work to begin to implement it begans years earlier. This is what *good* companies do; only after they’ve reached a competitive advantage do they they publicly state what they’re up to.

    Hugo says:

    “The risks to the strategy is that consumers will shop down a series, for example buying a 5er instead of a 7er – or a 1er instead of 3er. If the common platform cannibalizes sales from their siblings, or that the premium pricing of its subcompact offerings cannot be maintained, there will be trouble. If those problems occur the Number ONE strategy will need to be revisited.”

    I disagree…on two counts. First, there has always been parts sharing among BMW’s product lineup, e.g., engines & technology trickle-down — nothing new there; and, Second, more importantly, BMW is/would be *indifferent* to any ‘shop down’ or ‘cannibalizing’.

    It’s true!

    To see how BMW would be indifferent, one needs to understand how “ROCE” (“Return On Capital Employed”), fits into Number ONE. Even before Number ONE was announced, former CFO Krause use to stress [Did anyone listen?], that every BMW Group product HAS to meet the same corporate ROCE requirements. If a proposed product isn’t projected to meet the ROCE targets, then the Vorstand won’t signoff on the program. Every BMW, MINI, R-R & Motorrad must meet them.

    Consequently, whether a customer buys a 5er instead of a 7er, or an 1er instead of a 3er, AG is indifferent because every product meets or exceeds tha same ROCE standards. Varying projected sales volumes are factored in. So long as BMW has an entrant for every premium market niche that they want to exploit — this helps to explain the E71 & F07 — and, knowing that every BMW Group product has the same ROCE, it doesn’t matter which BMW a customer buys…

    Somewhat brilliant when you think about it.

    Back to *gamble*. Which the image of a roulette wheel was used as an attention-grabber, I find it to be ironic. Ironic in that the only car companies who are *gambling* aret hose who AREN’T doing what BMW is doing with Number ONE.

    • kcsnyud

      Well they shold add one more thing:

      Openess of ideas- The BMW Group should, at times, frequently visit blogs like bmwblog, and see what its customers are wanting for a new product. They sould comment stuff like “What shall we launch” We need a new supercar engine that is economical and powerful. help us” so therefore, they will gain much more respect form their customers for letting them give them ideas, and influcence their product plan. This would be excellent for BMW’s sales; We need to tell them this. Or else we’re gonna end up with a million 5gts and probably a 200hp truck, and a discontinuation of the m series, and so on.

      • The Lee

        Couldn’t disagree more.

        A trip to a BMW forum will likely produce very little, if any, positive information for BMW AG. What you’ll get is a bunch of kids bitching and complaining about having to replace the control arm bushings in their 15-year-old E36.

        BMW’s bread-and-butter is not the forum/blog crowd (for the most part). The vast majority of forum posters are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc owners of their particular vehicles and not the individuals who walked into the local BMW dealer and shelled out $XX for something new off the showroom floor.

        You can make the argument that those people may become the future new-BMW buyers, but that has yet to really be proven and I certainly wouldn’t expect BMW AG to listen to a bunch of people complain about the mechanical condition of their neglected, aged 3ers in the hopes that some day those people will buy something new from them.

        I’m all for quality control and soliciting the opinions of those who use your products, but I simply don’t see asking BMW AG to troll a bunch of internet forums doing any good for the company as a whole or their products.

        • kcsnyud

          They can, its how a company listens to its customers instaed of being stubborn and thinking that thjey are intelligent which they’re not.

      • bob

        One of the best things about BMW AG — going back well before Number ONE — is that they only listen to what customers really want, NOT what they say they want.

        Customers say they’ll buy this or that, but won’t. One reason focus groups can fail. BMW knows this. They also can detect the arrogant customer who has the crazy notion that by merely buying a BMW somehow gives them the right to tell BMW AG how to run their business. Madness!

        That said, BMW does monitor BMW-related forums. BMW NA monitors those based in the US.

        • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

          Agree. And ever since we became an important source of news, we are certainly monitored in several countries where BMW has a large presence.

          • bob

            “Source”???

          • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

            you get the idea…”source” in a sense of a publication delivering news

        • The Lee

          It can be a difficult proposition to attempt to keep your hands on the pulse of your consumer base while attempting to weed out the irrelevant fan boys/wanna-be’s/know-it-alls. For instance, while I’m an extremely opinionated and fairly knowledgeable individual, I’m not BMW’s target market and they should ignore out my opinions. But how would BMW know this if I didn’t admit it myself publicly? How would they know I’m not currently in the market for a new executive-luxury land yacht?

          There’s not a successful, semi-successful or struggling business around that doesn’t at least pay some measure of attention to their client base. I’m curious as to what, if anything, such a fan-boy prevalent brand as BMW does to negotiate through the large quantity of internet fecal matter in order to find that grain of genuine, usable information buried under the boat-loads of crap.

          (I’m trying a new approach for the sake of scientific endeavor: curtailing the profanity that regularly spews from my keyboard… let’s see how well this little experiment works.)

          • bob

            I would agree, that for BMW NA to monitor certain sites for the purposes of Product Planning would be inefficient and largely ineffective. Another reason why focus groups fail is because customers only know the past; they don’t know the future. BMW types, particularly designers, refer to “event horizons”, which have a duration of ten years. Roughly three years of development plus a production run typically lasting seven years. Their own internal & external marketing research is the best resource.

            In my estimation, the primary reasons that NA monitors sites like this are legal in nature.

            Several years ago, on another BMW-related site, there used to be a NA representative, who openly identified herself as such. The threads where she’d appear seem to be about topics like: Cats going bad prior to 80K mi.; defective seatbelts/airbags; recalls; and, other things covered under Federal laws.

            By the way, she once posted that a fellow co-worker had been terminated, for the comments they had posted were traced to their computer. As I recall, the individual had called BMW’s customers, ‘A bunch of whiners & pussyassess’…or, something like that.

            For H, I imagine that they’re monitoring this site, to make sure he doesn’t infringe upon any trademarks, and/or violate any news embargo’s, etc.

          • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

            Not entirely true Bob. And this is not the place to discuss this, but to my knowledge, BMW monitors all important publications to them, they monitor news presented, if they are accurate or incorrect, if they need to be addressed with an official statement, monitor coverage for the brand, monitor if embargoes are broken…

            Bottom line, they monitor publications important to them. I’ve seen internal presentations where they talk about automotive publications, online media etc….These same publications get invited to events, car launches etc…

            Anyway, irrelevant here.

          • Doug

            This is quite interesting stuff.

            It sounds from Bob that they are looking for individual issues to take action on. If they were looking for costomer opinions, how would they aggregate them so as to be reportable? You can get an impression, or quote examples, but I’m not sure how that paints a usefully complete picture.

      • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

        They are reading us daily, including our german version, BimmerToday. Not sure how much we influence them, but at least at a communication level, they are receptive to what we write. Product planning is different

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000477069969 Hugo Becker

          I suspect they pay attention to publications that reach a certain level of ‘gravitas’. For instance I know of at least three nearly un-populated BMW themed forums that not even the moderators are paying attention to. Those I’m sure are not on BMW’s radar, nor should they be.

          I’ve also seen the efforts of some car companies to enforce their brand identity (to the point of ridiculousness). Just ask Burt Levy. ; -)

          That being said, no car company in their right mind would base product planning on what a bunch of scribes said. You’d end with ‘Homersimpsonmobiles’. And even if they did incorporate anything a scribe mentioned into product planning they’d never admit it. ; -)

          On an unrelated note – I failed to include this in the article – I have one other fear based on info leaking out regarding the engine to be used in the 1M. If the M division doesn’t do a good job of differentiating their offerings from the base models (not just software ‘golden-key’ unlocks of power) they are in danger of watching their target audience decide that a Juicebox, coilovers, and an aftermarket LSD are better than an M.

    • FreudeKing

      Bob, what is the use of cutting and pasting from BMW’s website. All companies paint their stratgies as rosy as that to impress shareholders. All companies make as if they are such value creating machines by treating their stakeholders well and being very efficient. So what you put up there is irrelevant. All people who present their case to acquire a loan would speak highly of their abilities, it is up to us to see whether they have been able to create value as mentioned.

      You clearly have no idea of what ROI and ROCE means as a performance measure. In fact these measures are termed shrinking measures for companies as they DO NOT encourage maximum value creation for shareholders. EVA and Delta EVA should be the measure for shareholder creation as new projects above WACC but below ROI/ROCE would not be accepted. The fact you mentioned that BMW uses ROI/ROCE to evaluate new project acceptance means that they are banning projects that would have created value for the ahreholders. This makes me think if they should have allowed projects like the CS Concept, etc. but didn’t do it because of the ROCE threshold, and if management bonus is based on that, then there is an agency problem there straightaway. BMW will also tend to drop projects below ROCE but above WACC even though it is creating shareholder value.

      I cannot believe that you just said that BMW is indifferent between selling a higher end model (like 7) and a lower end model (like 5); and that cannibalisation has no effect. You are lacking some basic financial logic and principles. The fact that projects are all above ROCE is irrelevant in this case. We are talking about sales mix, not evaluation of a project acceptance/commitment. BMW would ideally want a higher percentage of more profitable products:i.e. if a customer was to have a choice between the 5 and 7, BMW would want the customer to choose the 7 as the profit margin is higher per unit for the 7 Series. ROCE has nthing to do with this decision. You are terribly confused here.

      What I think they should concentrate on is long term value creation for the shareholders, which the BMW Group has been doing up till the introduction of this strategy no.1. Long term creation stands from brand strengthening, which starts with the customers as BMW is a premium brand with competitive advantage stemming from differentiation – not cost leadership. If you piss your customers off now but cutting costs here and there and decrease quality and reliability, the customers will leave the brand and it is the shareholders who will lose in the long term.

      Just an interesting note: Audi’s strategy is to be no.1 premium car manufacturer and they concentrate on making the sportiest premium vehicles (customer orientated!). Contrast this with BMW’s cost cutting strategy and compare the growth in marketshare of both BMW and Audi. You’ll see that BMW is loosing customers to Audi.

      Long term measure of value creation are EVA (financial) and the change in market share (quantitative). NOT ROCE – throw that in the bin! Without customers, shareholders get nothing, and I sense that BMW is pissing customers off and it is evident that more and more customers (%wise) find Audi more attractive.

      • FreudeKing

        market share is qualitative, not quantitative – above comment.

        • bob

          I’m not responsible for your ignorance. Watch it with the false accusations!!!

          • FreudeKing

            Bob, what I said up there cannot be further from the truth. Go and do some research and you will see. Your reasonings are flawed.

          • bob

            “Bob, what I said up there cannot be further from the truth.”

            EXACTLY! :-)

          • FreudeKing

            just a typo. I completely disagree with your flawed reasoning and opinions:(

          • bob

            Changing your name to “FreudianSlip” would be more accurate, LOL!

          • FreudeKing

            Everyone knows what I meant. lol. It should read – “Bob, what I said up there is the truth, what you said cannot be further away from the truth.”

          • bob

            A typo?! Not even close, FeundianSlip.

            And, please do pontificate how market share is qualitative…LMAO!

          • FreudeKing

            It is always my pleasure to teach and explain to you:

            Firstly, you need to distinguish between lead and lag measurements. Most financial statements and reports concentrate on numbers (quantitative measures) that is a reflection of the past performance (and to a degree current position). These are the ROI,ROCE,ROE, EVA, Delta EVA, EBIT, NPAT, RI, etc. These numbers are financial quantitative measures that are lagging measurements as they look back to what has happened in the past.

            We then have other measures that a company should employ so that it is able to guide it towards its goal of creating long term shareholder value by looking after all their stakeholders and this may be incorporated in a balanced score card for board evaluation, which some good responsible companies also share with the public. I am talking about customer satisfaction (e.g. no. of customer complaints, customer retention), market share, product quality (defects), internal growth and innovation, etc. These indicators are normally lead measures that allow companies to see what the effect will be on their financials after a lag period. Bear in mind that there is a lag period between the source of the problem and the effect financially. A good example would be a regular customer just purchased a new BMW and had so much problems with the run flat tyres that he will switch to another brand for his next purchase in three years time. A lead indicator would have picked this up and allowed BMW to rectify the problem before the customer goes, whereas if you just look at the financials, it would not be able to tell you that. You wouldn’t know what hit you when your financials are bad in three years time due to lots of customers leaving BMW as a result of say run flat tyre problems causing massive increase in ownership cost or whatever.

            All these non-financial lead indicators, which are extremely important, although expressed in figures are in fact qualitative and not quantitative due to their non-financial nature. Same goes with the qualitative measure of customer satisfaction, which you can express as a percentage change – although quantitatively expressed, it is a qualitative measure.

  • X5SoB

    Interesting, thought provoking, and intelligent discourse, unusual for BMWBlog, kudos to Mr. Becker, and I notice plaxico and viper have nothing to say.
    As I see it BMW has listened to “scribes” in that they have backed away from the more controversial and individualistic styling of Mr. Bangle and veared back to the “sausage of different lengths” form of design. Commonality of components is logical, but commonality of styling is dangerous, as Jaguar found out.
    The emphasis on efficiency is sound, as long as it doesn’t compromise driving dynamics. An example of this is the recently introduced electrically assisted steering, which is lifeless and uncommunicative, and severely limits driving pleasure. The main problem with this is the bespoke commonality of parts that makes it hard for BMW to make corrections. If this problem is not corrected quickly, it will erode brand loyalty like a cancer.
    Mr. Becker correct that the 1-series M coupe is not sufficiently differentiated from the 135i. It should be called a 135is and come in at a lower price point.

    • X5SoB

      Becker IS correct that… *sigh* Work keeps intruding on my blogging!

      • bob

        “As I see it BMW has listened to “scribes” in that they have backed away from the more controversial and individualistic styling of Mr. Bangle and veared back to the “sausage of different lengths” form of design.”

        This absolutely couldn’t be further from the truth!

        FYI, Bangle’s last (*revolutionary*) generation of bimmers helped propel BMW AG as the world’s #1 premium maker…for the first time.

        The current generation of bimmers was meant all along to be *evolutionary*. The design development work done for the F01-02, E89, F07, E84, F10-11, F12-13, et al. was done several years ago, also under CEB’s direction.

        For both generations, CEB enjoyed the full faith & credit of des Vorstand der BMW AG. No change in strategy. No backing off anything. All I can say is, Thank Goodness(!), BMW doesn’t listen to people who don’t listen to them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000163817321 X5SoB

          Honestly, these days you have to look closely at a 3 or 5 or 7 to make sure which is which. They are indeed “evolutionary”, of each other. This was not the case under Bangle’s designs. And I doubt VanHooydonk’s designs will be copied by other car companies as much as Bangle’s was. The fact is the automotive press derided Bangle’s work, but the buying public voted with their wallets, something other companies noticed.

          • bob

            “…This was not the case under Bangle’s designs.”

            The whole point here is that the current generation is also a Bangle generation…as was the previous one, of course. His tenor at BMW will be highlighted by more than two full generations of bimmers. Therefore, it can’t be said that BMW “veared” away from CEB for the current generation, becuse it is also HIS generation.

            As for AvH, we won’t see his first generation as design Director [for existing bimmers], until the next-gen 7 Series comes out, circa 2015-2016. Again, for existing bimmers. Now, perhaps, we might see AvH’s influence sooner — say, 2013-2014 — but, that should be limited to the all-new vehicles, like the MCV and other Project i related offereings.

            ” Honestly, these days you have to look closely at a 3 or 5 or 7 to make sure which is which. They are indeed “evolutionary”, of each other. ”

            Yes, as intended. As intended by CEB. The E90 is the last of CEB’s first generation, so it’d make sense that it would convey some continuity with the current, *evolutionary* generation. This was all set in place (by CEB), leading up to the Concept CS’s debut for Shanghai in mid-’07.

            When CEB left in early ’09 [still under contract 'til March of this year], that would’ve been about the time they’d have to start thinking about the next *revolutionary* generation, beginning in 2015-16.

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      Most of the discussions are intelligent here, but then you have certain individuals that lower the IQ. I still believe the 1 Series M Coupe will be quite different from the 135i, in the end, it’s the baby of the M Division. I don’t think we have seen all of this car yet.

      • FreudeKing

        Eitherway, from a customer’s perspective – the 1 MCoupe will be based on old technology in a few months time when the new 1 Series is launched. With such a short production life, it is also very risky for the company as all costs may not be able to be recouped, nevermind making a profit.

        Why would they launch this car earlier in the current 1′s life if it is different enough from the 135i

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000477069969 Hugo Becker

      Get to a dealer and drive the new 5er. I’ve hated almost every example of electrically power assisted steering I’ve sampled, including BMW’s (it began with GM’s MagnaSteer of which I wrote, “All of the effort of a manual steering rack and none of the feel”). This latest generation steering is very good. Not as tingly as Porsche’s or a Miata’s steering but not numb at all (unlike an Infiniti M45 I sampled a couple of years back – man was that bad – or the NSX that had a less than enduring trait of hesitating just milliseconds after turn-in before responding to the helm – YIKES!!)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000163817321 X5SoB

        My last servicing of my X5 I did have a chance to drive them back to back, not only the 535i but also the Z4. I was given a previous generation 535i as a loaner and thouroughly enjoyed the thrust and parry through suburban DC traffic. When I came back to the dealer, I noticed one of the new generation 535i and asked my sales rep if I could test it. Since I’ve looking to buy a Z4, he was more than happy to let me, and honestly, I found the steering a little wooden in comparison. I then went to test a few previous generation Z4s, after which I tested a new one. The new Z4 is vastly superior car in almost a aspects except steering feel. I’m sure there are examples of electrically assisted steering out there that are much worse than BMW’s, but BMW steering has usually been the standard by which others are judged. It would be a shame if that was not the case anymore.

        • kcsnyud

          So what car are u gonna buy, eh? Hope its a bmw….

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000163817321 X5SoB

            Leaning towards a lightly used previous generation Z4 (it had hydraulic assisted steering, remember), although I’m not ruling out a used Boxster…

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