Autoblog: “Is BMW Becoming Too Soft?”

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We’ve long felt that in many areas, BMW’s top guns could use a little more starch in the collar.  Not that the brand has lost …

We’ve long felt that in many areas, BMW’s top guns could use a little more starch in the collar.  Not that the brand has lost its way – one trip to redline in the M3, or knee dragging experience on the S1000RR will tell you otherwise; but as a complete unit, the company has been struggling with focus of late.

Focus on “Efficient Dynamics,” focus on “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and its performance image, focus on practicality and utility – all of these facets are important, but which one should resonate through the entire lineup to offer one thunderous message in buyers’ heads?

Furthermore, BMW has decided to begin building front-wheel-drive cars (other than MINIs, and wearing the roundel), spawning us to write our strongly messaged opinion piece: “The Oval Roundel” many months ago.
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Autoblog gives us their take on the matter, and we must say, it’s an interesting read indeed.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Something has gone horribly wrong at BMW. And I think I know what it is. Back in 2006, then- BMW marketing director Jack Pitney (who tragically died in 2010) shared with me a Powerpoint strategy showing how far too many people, in his mind, weren’t considering a BMW because they were intimidated or otherwise put off by the performance image of the brand. It was this finding that led BMW to first do a corporate ad campaign touting BMW’s independent ownership, and then the softer “Joy of Driving” campaign that ran most of last year. It was literally meant to advance a “softer side” of BMW, and attract more people who were not necessarily driving enthusiasts to the brand.”


“Joy of Driving.” “Built in America.” Electric front-drive city cars. BMW is starting to feel a lot like Toyota in how it goes about its business and its brand – what with Toyota advertising its assembly plants and how it is working on a self-powered rollercoaster, while it forgets that it’s interiors have become shockingly bad and shoddy.

36 responses to “Autoblog: “Is BMW Becoming Too Soft?””

  1. About time a mainstream site says something about it.

    That is the whole point, BMW’s aren’t supposed to be for everyone. It’s the Ultimate Driving Machine. Let Toyota cater to the masses and let BMW get back to building great drivers cars. Enough with this Joy and Efficient Dynamics crap.

  2. Laszlo says:

    its called profitability ! Mo’ money equals mo happy share holders.
    I agree with BMW’s decision to build smaller cars and more fuel efficient cars in order to avoid the costly penalties for the M3 and M5, M6 etc.
    As long as they have a hard core M division at bay, no worries.
    and finally no bungle so all good !!!

    • Nnnn says:

      It’s not profitability. The distraction from their values is this perceived need to grow, including into other markets.

  3. empower says:

    you guys cant see the bigger picture. bmw needed to grow so it can remain independent simple. it still builds the best saloon cars in the word and the best bikes. not everyone wants a saloon car. if bmw where narrow minded they would still only be making bikes. dont forget bmw is first snd for most an engine builder. and put these engines into plains bikes then cars, effcient dynamics is not crap it show cases bmws technology and is well ahead of government legislation and it gives a buyer another reason to chose the brand over just speed. mpg co2 are factors in buying a car these days, so for all who just want bmw to build the 3 5 7 you would be happy to see bmw owned by some one else. times change live with it. at the end of the day bmw has alway done what it needs to do to stay independent, as long as you dont see the roundel on trucks and vans and not build a fwd car over 4 meters long bmw will be bmw.

  4. Zack Brak says:

    As BMW moves toward the “softer” side it brings their competitors closer to the mix including cars like the Hyundai Genesis.

    If you wanted a smooth ride you’d buy a Lexus. If you wanted a sporty luxury car you got a BMW. If you wanted to show off how much money you made you got a Mercedes. If you were retarded you got an Audi.

    If you can get an R-Spec 5.0 V-8 429 HP Genesis Sedan for the price of a BASE 528i what is the point of getting the BMW?

  5. Joe says:

    No question about it. They have a winning formula now. ///M for hard core, Bikes for every style, and standard type cars for the everyday driver that just wants a BMW badge. Its smart and will ensure they remain independent for years to come; something that is a novelty in today’s auto market.

  6. Auday says:

    The problem is that they went soft-er across the board. Compare the E46 vs E92 or the E39 vs E60 M cars and you could feel how comfort was a priority over the joy of driving, the only thing that went forward between these two generations were the engines everything else went backward. And now with the Turbo engines, even the engine will go backward. The focus is going towards straight line acceleration and comfort, which you could get in any mercedes or Audi.

    BMW had the magic touch that makes you smile behind the wheel when you drive an M car, regardless of how fast it is and how much HP it has. It’s just that row feeling that your arm muscles are attached to the wheels and you foot muscles control the back wheels slip. This started fading with the Bangle cars and it seems like it will disappear with the new M5 judging by how soft the new 5er is and by the use of Turbos.

  7. Alex says:

    BMW has apparently forgotten the foundation onto which German business success has been built, that your product offering should be, DEEP NOT WIDE!

    The backbone of the German economy is the ‘mittelstand” who continue to practice the “NOT WIDE, BUT DEEP” product line philosophy with great success.

    BMW seems out of focus and lurching from one fad to another, in the process forgetting who and what brought them their previous success!

  8. Giom Mouton says:

    It’s easy for anybody to criticize anything, because we all have our own ideas, likes and dislikes. One car company can never ever ever never please them all. So, unless you’re at the helm of a massive company like BMW, you can criticize them all you want.

    The fact remains, BMW has been very successful to date without ever being boring or being a follower. The people making decisions on a daily basis does so with calculation and vision. If this doesn’t agree with you, then that is fine. Because, your head isn’t going to roll when things go wrong.

    Fortunatly for us, those decision makers, almost always gets it right – wether we agree all the time or not.

  9. billmilo says:

    BMW is in the market to make money, and shareholders buy BMW stock to increase their profits. Right now, every survey BMW does, people want softer, economical, luxury vehicles. So, in order to keep with EPA regulations, and consumer demand BMW has to make softer cars, but t has not forgotten their hardcore fans: you have the 335i the 335iS, the M3, M5. M6, the 1 series M. What more do you want?

  10. Gordon says:

    Well, M cars and sports car are nice and all, but they only make up a small portion of the sales, this is true for all brands and not just BMW.

    Now I’m not necessarily happy with BMW’s direction, but it seems they are at least taking initiative in developing their i line.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      They might have no choice but to go this route, they have to stay independent so that means they have to grow. I don’t agree with the direction either, but I understand the business decisions behind it.

  11. Joe says:

    The only sad part of BMW’s move is that you use to be able to say “nothing drives like a BMW” now unfortunately you can’t generalize and there is very little that differentiates them (leather is leather, pretty is pretty, and NAV is NAV). They built their success on driving dynamics and all that is really left of this is the ///M brand which is just too expensive for some people. Now an Infiniti M can easily be compared to a 5 series because BMW has gotten away from their large differentiating element. I guess this is not affecting business too much but we will have to wait and see because Porsche has really jumped on this void and filled it with a performing Cayenne and Panamera; unfortunately greed got the best of them (VW owned) .. we will see where BMW goes.

    One of my friends own a new Panamera S and says that it reminds him of the great E39 M5. When you lose focus things get mushy and others can use that to their advantage. Maybe BMW already knows this and finds that they are not so concerned with the enthusiasts because they are not the bread and butter of the company. All in all I am sure the decisions they are making are better for business and this economy that is all that matters.

  12. Auday says:

    The important question to ask here is “Are you a fab of the company/corporate or the cars they make?”
    if it’s the company then yes you should support them whatever they do, go soft, go FWD, make BMW buses and M Busses, switch business to whatever s more profitable even if it means making more small FWD cars and cut the M-Brand. If you say no this is too much then where do you draw the line? or in another way at what point do you say BMW is pushing it too far into the profit game and forgets it’s roots?

    if you are a fan of the cars, then you have to ask yourself are a fan of the brand/logo or the essence that the bran/logo carry, the essence that actually made you a fan of BMW in the first place, the sportiness, the connectivity, the fun that you could get from a daily commuter cheap 318is without having to give your first born to buy a big sport car. This fun is dying in reality and alive only in your mind. Sooner or later, if you are into BMW for the fun of driving you will realize that you have to look else where or keep recycling the real old BMWs, which is not a bad thing to, from the E30M3 for the purists to the E39 M5 for the family oriented practical drivers there is a whole range of great fun to drive car that are better than anything BMW is making now.

  13. BMW’s are extremely mainstream, especially where I live in Socal, every other person literally drives one. I don’t think anyone I know is intimidated at all by the performance aspect, a lot of people her choose BMW for the “image” and “cool factor ” it has. However, BMW is in the business to make money and I think their selection is large and has enough variety to appeal to all sorts of buyers; softer cars for those who don’t care about super high performance and then M series for automotive enthusiasts. BMW is very profitable because they cast a wide net and appeal to lots of different types of buyers.

  14. chb says:

    They’re a luxury car brand. They compete with at least 2 other German luxury car makers who make a similar lineup. They’re risen to #1 in premium luxury car sales. You’re an idiot if you think “BMW has lost it’s way;” whatever that means. They’re bigger and better than ever. If you want a sports car, go buy Porsche, a GT-R, or a vette.

  15. I’m not convinced that BMW is getting softer. At least not in terms of ride. Drive a standard run-of-the-mill (non-Sport/EDC) E38, then immediately jump into a 750Li.

  16. Rad Dockery says:

    Interesting discussion. I will have to test drive the F10 535xi before making a judgement. I will say that the re-vamped series better step it up in the looks department. Although the engine is a dream, 2 of my friends went for a C350 instead – more options, better value and sexier exterior looks. They do need to expand offers to capture more drivers, yet can not forget about their core

  17. bob says:

    Second guess BMW AG at your own peril!

    The company just reported record Revenues & Earnings for FY2010:

    • Auday says:

      Toyota makes lots of money too, should we switch to Toyota? why do you care how successful their business is? are you gonna drive the company?

      • bob says:

        Only ‘good’ companies make ‘good’ products…in this case cars. Rare is the situation where a ‘bad’ company makes a ‘good’ car.


        There’s a reason why there are no mainstream full line manufacturers from England, France, and Italy represented in the US market.

  18. paul says:

    one could blame current economic climate and yes bmw is doing the “right” thing going green and fwd and move from NA engines to turbos and all that. but I have never bought a car because it was the “right” thing to buy…or else why pay 3x more for a car that will do the same as any other car out there ( for the sake of argument of course i know a 4×4 will go places a mini wont). the point is Some of us, unfortunatly not enough of us – i reackon 80% of bmw customers dont even know what rwd is let alona a LSD or NA engine or 50:50 weight distribution – still buy our cars on passion not on reason. and thats why bmw keeps fitting electric power steering despite beeing shit and low revving turbo engines instead of NA engines to save a few L of fuel. who cares if the new M5 drinks 2 L less than the outgoing model? the previous had better throttle response and sounded awesome.

  19. paul says:

    i am telling if you a proper bmw, the current M3 will be the last of it. even the new 3ser will have that shit electric steering so thats it for me when it comes to bmw. The V8 magic, NA engine, lightweight (despite it could loose 100kgs ) and proper steering thats it. All F models are worst to drive – sporty wise not comfort wise but for that I would go for a merc – than the previous generations. take the new X3… its a fucking merc to drive. the previous generation was harsh, poor interior but it was fun to drive. and this new x3 has the underpinnings of the next 3ser so even that car will be an abortion to drive…get one while u can cause this E90 generation will be the last of the pure bmw´s

  20. paul says:

    i think thats why they went from E to F generation…fucked bmw series

  21. Tom says:

    soo much hate for bmw is mad annoying. once you own one, and drive it and live it everyday, dont put your two cents in about how “bad” bmw is because they really are the complete opposite. just looking down and seeing the badge on your steering wheel puts a smile on your face.. nothing compares.

    i miss the old z commercials! that was so siiiick, yet so true!

    • paul says:

      its becaused i have owned 8 bmws and test drove most of the bmw’s for sale at this time that i say what i did. i would not trade my E46 for any bmw car for sale now. either they are too heavy, or have poor design or have electric power steering that robs its natural wonderfull bmw feel, the one you say puts a smile on ur face. mt e46 is pretty standart. manual NA engine no m sport, no vdc, no servotronic or whatever steering. Puts a smile on my face everytime i take it around a corner. i didnt have to spend 3k of extras to make it sporty. fun straight out of the box. and only suckers pay for these extras.

  22. Choman says:

    All you people complaining that BMW has losted it’s way, there is a simple way to resolve your problem: walk away from the brand. Since the brand no longer matches your taste and driving style, why waste time criticizing this and that? Honestly, do you think BMW gives a crap what any of you think? I bet BMW won’t shed a tear if you leave.

    For me, I will take my E92 3 series, thank you very mych. I don’t really care about the project i and stuff. They can make those fuel efficient or electric cars and I don’t give a $%^ either way, just make sure they continue making the good performance and handling cars like the M3, and I’ll be happy.

    • paul says:

      how can i leave the brand if i have 3 at home. and btw i am just putting in my 2 cents about this thread. i didnt started. but any way all i am saying is new bmws no thank but there is plenty of options in the 2nd h market. take it from me. instead of going for that soft turbo not an M car At all no matter what the badge says M1 or 1M i got myself a E46 CSL, probably the best M ever, and it cost me 10k less than the 1M. i know bmw wont care if 1 customer leaves, but bottom line is everyone knows that bmw is making its best work right now. the best mercedes yes but not the best bmws. and if everyone in these forums made that clear to bmw perhaps things might change. but no people will still buy them cause there neighbours just got one so i must have an ever bigger one.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      I apologize, your previous long comment got deleted by mistake while we were doing an upgrade. It was a great one, so feel free to repost it. Just wanted to let you know that it wasn’t deleted by choice.

  23. Choman says:

    The dilemma BMW is facing is that it is working in a place call “reality”, as in ever tightening government regulation on emission, safety and fuel efficieny. All these regulations will have an adverse impact on performance and handling of some of it’s cars. That is the real reason why we are seeing project i and stuff like that. If they can satisfy those requirements yet also have enough freedom to also make the kind of cars we want, that is the crucial factor.

    I don’t really care for all irritating and unreliable electronics and The 5 series GT is an abomination, not a SUV or a sedan, and dosen’t perform anywhere near what a bimmer should. But we also have options like the 1M or sports package for many other cars. It is also important to bear in mind that even a regular stock E90 sedan has better performance and handling then many so-called sports cars of the past. I think BMW should not lose sight of that. The solution is simple, BMW has to cater to the demands of the wider market and government, but the revenue they earn from that should allow them to make the kind of cars we want, right now they are not making enough of that, but with the record profit that they now have, they should be able to do that now.

    • Nnnn says:

      The E90 made height and weight sacrifices from the E46, which made the same sacrifices from the E36. Despite better technology, less is usually more, because more multiplies inefficiency and the engineering and materials required to compensate. The irony is that had the 3-series stuck with a 4-cylinder all along, they would have been much better positioned for a transition to efficiency as well as retained the BMW handling hallmarks without compromise.

      • Choman says:

        Yeah, but many reviews say the E90 actually performs better then the E46, which performs better then the E36. The problem is that each generation gets less and less reliable and more and more complicated with unnecessary electronics. These stuff frustrates the driver more than aiding them.

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