Advertisement

Column: BMW changes need time to grow

2011-BMW-5-Series-73

This always happens. One iteration of a BMW ceases production and another takes its place. But the changes are almost always met with resistance; the …

This always happens. One iteration of a BMW ceases production and another takes its place. But the changes are almost always met with resistance; the replacement is hailed as “not as good”, “not as aggressive,” or “doesn’t look like a BMW.”

I have seen it happen many times before. I have been embedded within BMW world since the mid ‘90s and have heard all the comments made about how wonderful the previous generation of any model is compared to the new one coming to market. Take the 3 Series for example, BMW’s bread and butter car in terms of sales units, it has a winning formula that BMW tends to stick closely to when it comes to design, performance, and function.

Column: BMW changes need time to grow

When the E36 was replaced with the now highly-acclaimed E46 in 1998, BMW fans were up in arms at the radical changes BMW had brought to its darling 3 Series. The styling differences were significant when it came to its rounded edges, scalloped headlights and new rear end treatment. The car grew in size and weight which did not go over well with the purists. New technologies were being implemented such as Navigation Systems, Xenon lighting, and for the first time in decades, the 2001 E46 saw the return of the all-wheel-drive system.

That last addition really had everyone questioning BMW’s direction, as if the addition of an SAV in 2000 didn’t have them all scratching their heads already. After all, BMW had spent countless marketing dollars and years explaining why rear wheel drive was the sporting choice.

“But BMWs aren’t supposed to be all wheel drive” – I must have heard the same very phrase a hundred times a day. BMW forged ahead with all wheel drive and eventually making it an option across its sedan and coupe model range. As of September 2011, BMW will have xDrive available on the 3, 5, 6, 7, and all the four SAVs offered around the world. Unofficial numbers say that BMW sells just as much if not more models with xDrive worldwide than in rear wheel drive form.

Just in time for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, BMW launched the E39 5 Series. Met with great result from the motoring press and customers, BMW had a successful car in the new 528 and 540. Especially the 540i Sport with a 6-speed manual transmission, 17 inch 7-spoke 3-piece wheel, and sport suspension. The chassis was amazing, the brakes spectacular, but that was not it…. BMW dropped the bomb on us with the power upgrade: a 392 horsepower V8 in the E39 M5.

The E39 M5 is still hailed as the holy grail of midsize sedans. Its perfect balance on and off the track, makes it a favorite even today among the BMW performance crowd. So how was BMW going to top the E39? Well, they launched the “Bangled”  E60 5 Series.

Column: BMW changes need time to grow

That’s when the “you know what” hit the fan! Chris Bangle had since taken over as BMW’s design chief and decided, with BMW’s board approval, to take the company’s future design in a totally new direction.

The E60 5 Series was born. Although not the first offering from Bangle; 2002 E65/E66 E66/67 7 Series was the first one, the E60 outraged BMW fans worldwide. A petition was floating on the internet demanding BMW to get rid of Bangle. As any company that stands behind its people and exceptional talent, BMW did nothing. In fact, Bangle also penned the “flame surfacing” Z4 and the resurrected 6 Series. To this date, other automakers use flame surfacing when drawing their new cars.

So how was the E60 5 Series received? Not well, not well at all. Even though the sporting character of BMW was still present, the look of the new front end was likened to “Dane Edna” and her famous glasses. The design was way ahead of its time. Sales of the E60 showed that even though the purists didn’t like the look, they were coming out in droves to buy this latest 5.

Surely BMW had a sales success with the E60.

In 2010, BMW launches the latest 5 Series, known internally as the F10. Already a success worldwide and responsible for the largest first quarter earnings in BMW company history, the F10 will no doubt shatter the E60 as the best selling 5 Series. But the new softer and rounded looking premium sedan went through the same purgatory: fans did not warm up to the car immediately and now the Van Hooydonk’s design direction was being questioned. Fast forward a few months later and BMW community not only embraced the new F10 5 Series, but began to praise the aggressive look and luxurious interior.

So what about all the hoopla? All the complaining from the purists, the petitions demanding BMW build cars for them? Well, nobody likes changes. Change represents a departure from what we are used to and familiar with. But change is good, it keeps designs fresh, contemporary, and drives the demand for new vehicles. BMW is after all a car company, they build exciting cars that people want to drive. BMW must forge ahead into new market segments with new offerings and fresh vehicles that re-ignite the love from purists, but also bring fresh buyers to their showrooms. Because that’s what funds all the Motorsport programs and builds all the neat M cars we love to thrash.

And the new BMW 1M was just the beginning…

  • Pingback: Column: BMW changes need time to grow | labmw.com

  • Tom Cardone

    very good article, that was fun to read. the last paragraph says it all. BMW has its reasons for everything they do, and the true fanatics will realize this and stick by them regardless of the hoopla people trash about the new designs. they are by far the most aggressive in person, they radiate a presence and a feeling that no other car company can accomplish. i cant wait for the future of BMW. i will never (underline, bold, size 26 font) drive anything accept a bimmer for the rest of my life.. (God willing…)

    Love those pictures too.. there needs to be shots like that for all the series.

  • Pingback: Column: BMW changes need time to grow | BMW Blog

  • M Driver

    Good article :D

    Maybe one day BMW will be more able to stick with one key design for each of it’s models (like porsche!).

    Having watched some videos with designers, they always stress that they look at past designs for inspiration so some things, I presume, will never change.

    BMW knows that they have a group of very devoted buyers. Therefore, aims new changes primarily to attract others it seems. I wouldn’t mind if all they built were rwd manual saloons with inline 6 engines.

  • Giom (mobile)

    Good article Manny. You’ve summed up what I’ve been saying for years. Even tho not all BMWs are to my liking, I still support the chioces the company makes. It’s naive to think that every model should be liked by the entire fan base. Nobody can do that! As long as the core values remain intact, and the company does what it has to do to stay in business, there is no problem.

  • Coors Light

    Bangle backtracks on flame surfacing and the Bangle Butt
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fNg9jP66JU&feature=player_embedded#at=40

  • Pingback: Column: BMW changes need time to grow | Product Sourcing - Industrial News

  • Manny Antunes

    Thanks everyone. I appreciate your feedback. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to hear about from my many years with BMW sales, let me know. I’d love to share my experiences.

  • Manchester Man

    everytime i see the new 5 series it makes me forget about the e60, the f10 looks stealthy and slick, does not look over done. personally i think bmw did a great job with the f10. to me the f10 is more of a bmw looking car than the e60.
    and i also seen the new 6 series in a car park in central manchester and damnnn it looked amazing, all my mates who arent even bmw enthusiasts started takin photos from their phones, yep it was that nice! it looks way better in real life than in the photos. also another mate he seen the new 1 m coupe, he couldnt stop goin on about how beefy it looked and sounded. now he started to save up to buy one. anyway my point is that bmw are in a good and strong position in the market with their latest models, with the exception of the 5gt and maybe the new 1 series.

    most of the people who talk shit about the new models in here cant even afford any of the new models so forget the haters and keep it real bmw! peace

  • Ruslan_Kz

    Fans BMW are no more
    conservative, than other brands fans. For any person important that the car was
    harmonious: design, engineering, car should cost their money etc. But when we
    look at Х3 or a new 1 series you see the obvious dissonance.
    For example, at Х3 forward headlights have come from the XX century, about 1-er it would not be desirable to speak at all. Many fans
    have already expressed in this occasion.

    When you speak about increase in sales, it is
    necessary to consider the important thing: important not quantity of sold cars,
    but quantity of not sold cars, that is quantity of people which have preferred Aidi or Mercedes.

    It is necessary to tell Chris Bangle is
    great designer! 

    Excuse for my English

  • subtotal

    I think Bangle 7er and 5er was needed to win Asia from Mercedes, as well premium cars last so long if they would modify evolutionary (E34 vs. E39) instead of changing the design radically, buyers could keep their cars for longer period of time. That would hurt business.

    Personally I have a facelifted E39 Touring and would never change that for a E60 (I have serious concerns with the inside, not the outside design). I will change it to a E90 FL 3er Touring or an F11.

  • Pingback: Column: BMW changes need time to grow | Car Blog HQ

  • Lekkousa

    Written like a true publicity flack, hope you don’t wear out those knee pads prematurely!
    BMW is all knowing and we mere customers need to just trust in their wisdom. It is heresy to have an opinion contrary to the company line!
    The new 5er, is a bloated pig I am not heartened by its reviews and fear the 3er will also suffer from the same corporate mind set.

    • Manny Antunes

      My knee pads are fine…..   Still more life in them.

  • Lekkousa

    Written like a true publicity flack, hope you don’t wear out those knee pads prematurely!
    BMW is all knowing and we mere customers need to just trust in their wisdom. It is heresy to have an opinion contrary to the company line!
    The new 5er, is a bloated pig I am not heartened by its reviews and fear the 3er will also suffer from the same corporate mind set.

  • Lekkousa

    Written like a true publicity flack, hope you don’t wear out those knee pads prematurely!
    BMW is all knowing and we mere customers need to just trust in their wisdom. It is heresy to have an opinion contrary to the company line!
    The new 5er, is a bloated pig I am not heartened by its reviews and fear the 3er will also suffer from the same corporate mind set.

  • viper

    Bangle was God of bmw , I never questioned E60 was it came out , in fact I was so glad that its design was so new and powerful and futuristic.
    now the new 5 series …you really cant tell the same thing.
    I think Merc does a better job , so does Audi….in terms of designing their cars , exterior , enterior , and some other gadgets…

    • Manny Antunes

      WOW Viper, I’m surprised you liked the E60.. 

      • Viper

        I really did….even more when I see the F10.
        the design is really fresh even today , so is the 6er

  • Mike M

    The new 5er was love at first sight for me as well as the E90.  In fact, I think most models in the early to late 90s, I liked from the get go (E30, E31, E34, E36, E38 namely).  I definitely did NOT like the E60 (especially interior-wise) and a good part of me still doesn’t like how cheap it feels – especially in comparison to the F10.  But in general, I agree that there is a warming up period to the new BMW offerings.  I’m not sure I can ever see myself warming up to the new 1-series though…even if I’ve been a die-hard BMW guy since birth.

  • James Bachici

    Excellent article Manny! I am of the belief that BMW enthusiasts are a very devoted bunch and as such, have a very firm point of view with regards to certain models, what they like and what they dislike. People are resistant to change but as BMW has proven in the past, every new model does great in sales and captures new customers with each passing generation. I like to find certain aspects that I like for each series ranging from exterior to the interior, handeling and engine selection and I respect each generation for what it was at that particular time. Nice pics as well!

    • Manny Antunes

      Thanks James. :-)

  • Brett McSweeney

    The second picture, from above, makes it especially clear that the latest 5 is an evolution not of the previous one, but of the one before.  The Bangle version has been largely bypassed.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm.  Still not a fan of the e60, e90 or F10 designs.  They may have sold well but to my eyes, the 3 looked best as the e30 and the 5 was perfect (still is) as the e39.  

    I’ve had a few e9x cars and an e46.  My e9x cars never made me smile as I walked up to them.  The shape is so generic and lacking in any refinement or style – it reminds me of a Buick crossed with a Honda.  At least the e46 still looks sporty.  I can only expect the F30 will be as bland as the F10 (and not as ugly as the F20).  

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm.  Still not a fan of the e60, e90 or F10 designs.  They may have sold well but to my eyes, the 3 looked best as the e30 and the 5 was perfect (still is) as the e39.  

    I’ve had a few e9x cars and an e46.  My e9x cars never made me smile as I walked up to them.  The shape is so generic and lacking in any refinement or style – it reminds me of a Buick crossed with a Honda.  At least the e46 still looks sporty.  I can only expect the F30 will be as bland as the F10 (and not as ugly as the F20).  

BMWBLOG

NEWSLETTER