Jalopnik: “The Death Of BMW’s M Brand”

Interesting | July 10th, 2012 by 40

Bill Caswell of Jalopnik writes a controversial article on the “death of M brand.” As one would expect, the lengthy editorial created some buzz and …

Bill Caswell of Jalopnik writes a controversial article on the “death of M brand.” As one would expect, the lengthy editorial created some buzz and heated discussions in the BMW community.

We will follow up on the article with some of our own thoughts on the BMW M brand, but in the mean time, we would like to open a channel of communication, so feel free to share with us your impressions of the article and the M brand in the comments section below.

Here are some paragraphs from the article:

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BMW’s announcement today of the Lime Rock Edition M3 was the final nail in the coffin for me. The company that claims more 24-Hour wins at the Nürburgring than any other manufacturer just launched a track edition M3 that offers no serious performance improvement over the current M3.  It’s basically bolt-on Pep Boys parts like a flat bottom Knight Rider steering wheel and special paint. And I’m guessing there is a Lime Rock track map sticker somewhere or a plaque on the dash that tells you this is something special. But that’s just it. This isn’t something special. It’s simply a marketing exercise. A fraud. Not unlike pumping a fake engine noise through the car stereo like BMW does with the M5.

It’s for guys who want to be associated with racetracks but don’t actually go to the track themselves. It’s for the modern poser racer. A luxury version of those fast and furious Honda civics with race seats and belts but stock engines that kids drive around on the street.

To fully appreciate this you need a little history in BMW M brand.  It was created to build homologation specials.  Cars built for specific racing series in minimum quantity to meet the rules.  It started with the M1 in 1978. Then came hand-build 5 series cars that at one point were the fastest sedans in the world – as delivered from the factory.

Next came the original M3, known to us car guys as the E30 M3.  Built by BMW for one purpose. To win races.  And it won so much its known as the most winning chassis in touring car history. This was BMW’s M brand.

So what is it now?  Besides the M3, we have an M1 (or 1 Series M Coupe so it’s not to be confused with the real M1).

To be fair, this car is amazing. I love it. But BMW built 800 or so and called it a day. Did one go racing?  Not that I know of. And then there are the M brand SUVs: an X6M and a X5M. Did either of these go racing?  Sort of.  BMW gave one to a journalist to compete in One Lap of America this year and it got beat by a Jeep Cherokee. A Jeep Cherokee took down the M Brand.  (Ed. Note: Matt Farrah should be along soon to explain how the Jeep was modified and the X5 M was not.)
Now to be fair BMW ran the new M5 — yes the one with the fake engine noises — in One Lap and it won its “Luxury Sedan” class. So my point is that BMW no longer makes high performance automobiles known as the Ultimate Driving Machine. They now make luxury automobiles that are the ultimate motorsport poser mobile.

The Death Of BMW’s M BrandThere is no car that says “I want to pretend I’m a performance driver, a racer, but never go to the track” more than the curren

The full article can be found here and the comments section is opened below.

40 responses to “Jalopnik: “The Death Of BMW’s M Brand””

  1. Donovan M. says:

    Bill is known as a huge BMW enthusiasts and he has some valid points, but he might have gone a bit too far. The M brand is diluted, no doubt, but we need to look at some of the reasons why this happened.

  2. pimeto says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the author of this article!
    BMW M today is just a luxury car with more HP… The exclusiveness of the M brand is gone when they started building everything with M badge. What a shame!

  3. Ricky Calo says:

    Interesting article maybe it’s a little harsh but unfortunately it’s dead on right. I just wish someone at BMW headquarters would read this and spark some kind of change in the M division.

  4. David says:

    I know Bill, and he could left out the part on mocking the BMW Marketing.

    He makes some good points, but forgets to mention one thing: are all the M customers true enthusiasts? I would love to see some stats on enthusiasts vs “regular consumers” that buy M models.

  5. bmw SUCKS says:

    Like I always said, but I don’t know why these blog’s ridiculous bmw fanboys opposed to the ultimate truth. BMW is nothing more but a mediocre brand that makes cars which aren’t the bet at anything.

    • BMW BEST says:

      So does Audi,Audi make so many various such as A4,S4,RS4 bla bla bla,but none of them are really a performance car.Understeer,is the only DNA could find on Audi.Nonsense thing.They should learn from BMW and they are far far behind BMW.

  6. John Anders says:

    M dropped the ball in the past few years. All these U.S. special edition models were a joke, especially since for many of them, you could order the same color, with a bit of effort.

    I truly hope that in next generation we will see a CSL or CRT version coming here

  7. BMW The Best says:

    Wow, an absolute slap in BMW’s face. To be honest, BMW has gone too far towards luxury thus leaving sportiness. By contrast, Audi now makes the best sports sedans in the world thus dethroning BMW. And the brightest example is the 5 Series vs A6 encounter where the A6 turns the 5er to dust. If BMW goes on this way they’ll surely become bankrupt since there’s no reason to buy BMW any more, because if one wants comfort, they’ll stick to Mercedes-Benz, and if they want performance, they’ll stick to Audi.

    • kolbasz says:

      Tell me more about this ‘A6 turns F10 to dust’ thing, I don’t see that happening anywhere.

      1st of all an AWD will never beat an RWD in sportiness. It may reach the finishline a few inches before an RWD (once out of a hundred times), but an RS6 wont give you that special feeling.
      Speaking of feelings, BMW puts passion in between those sheets but what about an Audi…?
      Copypaste clones like some cold bizarre german incestuous metalcows.

      Naaah, not my cup of tea, I’ll stick to BMW.

      • BMW The Best says:

        My friend, search for A6 3.0TFSI vs 535i comparison and get disappointed with BMW’s sportiness. Even the A4 beats the new 3 Series now. Audi is now the performance king, and understeer refers to BMW, but not to Audi any more. That’s all I wanted to say.

        • BMW still the BEST says:

          I think you are inverted the fact.First,A4 hasn’t beat 3 series in every aspect,and 3 series is always been better than A4.Second,most of the Audi fan boy could only came up with the only example which is “A6 VS 5 SERIES”,OMG!I’ve already get bored with that!Did you have other evidence more?BMW might not the performance king but compare to Audi,BMW is performance king and “understeer” will never ever happens to any single BMW vehicle but happens to Audi all the time,you know why?Thanks to the stupid Quattro system.Google first before you came here to troll BMW.

          • BMW The Best says:

            To google is what I ask you. The A6 beats the 5 series performance-wise. FULL STOP!

          • BMW BEST says:

            Then please google again for others like 1M vs RS3,M3 vs RS5/RS4 and such.You just can’t accept it,I understand.Pity for you for being a pathetic audi fan boy.

    • fredyschiftan@aol.com says:

      how can you call yourself BMW the best and then say all your stupid words . not audi VW and Mercedes will beat BMW ! you still read those papers and magazines , that is how they fool you ! why do you believe them . Have you driven these Cars ? BMW is an independent Co. they can react very fast and different than those Co. you are talking about , they are no 1 Car brand in the World , you dont get that just by building boring cars like VW, Mercedes Bosses and VW just DREAM of having a nomination like this, and by the way it wasnt built by the M brand ! Jalopnik was never a serious place to go and read what they say .

      • Eric says:

        Hey BMW you know how you make buyers feel like they are buying the ultimate driving machine? MAKE MORE MODELS! #NOT

  8. Matt Webb says:

    Say what you want, its the truth.

  9. Giom says:

    I’m agreeing with his views, but there’s a bigger picture to behold! Firstly, BMW M, like any other business on this planet, needs to sell cars to survive. This obviously insures the future of any business. Now, a lot of us fans don’t give the business part a second thought, we just want to see the cars continue the they did when we got to know them. Nothing wrong with that.
    Secondly, the M buyer is a large and diverse group of people. One company needs to cater for all these needs and that one company is still leading the field. Noticed how M isn’t following or copying anybody? They simply keep on re-inventing themselves in order to keep the buyer happy.
    My five cents worth: I would have kept the “M” cars closer to their original concepts, while calling the current breed of M car the M performance range – in which the X M models would fit.
    In other words, a normal M3 then, would have looked like the M3 GTS while today’s M3 would have been called the M340i or something like that. To my mind, you cater for the vast majority of buyer while keeping the lower volume but true fan happy.

    Pitty we don’t live in a perfect world, but, M is not going anywhere! It’s just adapting.

    • Manny Antunes says:

      Extremely well put! Most enthusiasts forget that BMW is a car company.

      • Guest says:

        Most auto journalists forget that cars don’t exist for specifically their own enjoyment. Plus, writing nonsense always attracts clicks. If I had a link here that said, “BMW makes suspension parts from dead people’s harvested organs!” wouldn’t you click on it?

        Talk about homologation and so on is all great, but to afford a $100,000+ M5, you have to drive to your job or your business every day in traffic, maybe fielding a call on your hands-free phone on the drive in, and listening to the radio. Maybe three weekends a year, you have time to go to a track day. So what? You can still enjoy the responses of a well-designed car at normal speeds without being strapped into a “homologation special” with no AC, no Bluetooth, and carbon fiber seats – but with the all-important blessing of some auto journo nobody ever heard of. Meanwhile, the journo himself is driving to work in a Dodge Dart or some other nice, practical car.

        • Manny Antunes says:

          LOL, well said! By the way, I’m not a journalist, I’m a BMW client adviser that happens to write for BMWBlog.com :)

          • Guest says:

            I realize you’re not a journo, Manny. My words were aimed at the author of the article, not you.

            Not that I intended to tar all journos with the same brush either. I just laugh when I see some self-appointed expert tell us that unless your car is a true homologation special, you dare not show your face among self-appointed “enthusiasts”. BS, pure and simple. A truly great car can be enjoyed at every speed from zero to 200mph and everything in between. You don’t need somebody else’s blessing before you can love a car.

          • Manny Antunes says:


          • Guest says:

            And my apologies, Manny, if you saw my comment as directed at you.

          • Manny Antunes says:

            No worries! ;)

  10. BMW The Best says:

    But as for the X5 M getting beaten by Jeep Cherokee, it’s an absolute nonsense. The X5 M driver was either drunk or didn’t know how to drive his car.

    • Manny Antunes says:

      Matt Farrah is an excellent driver and was accompanied by a pro driver. Both of whom I know. The real reason is that the SRT8 Grand Cherokee was stripped of its interior(Lightened by 600+ lbs) and had some modifications. I know the engineers that prepped that SRT8, that thing was far from stock.

  11. BMWOwner says:

    It’s all about making money people. You can’t cater anymore to a small group of buyers, you need to go broad and you have to sacrifice some core values. BMW is not Lamborghini or Paganni or even Fisker. They need to make money.

    Yes, I don’t agree with Lime Rock one, but all the others, kinda make sense. Even the X5M and X6M which had to be built so AMG doesn’t take it all.

  12. Mark Tarr says:

    I have to appreciate your thoughts as I have been leaning this way as well. I would like to see the M division separate and build thier own cars from ground up. BUT, as you said, there are more posers than racers out there. I am so dissappointed that the end is near for the M3 in ALMS.

  13. Franky says:

    100% right on. The ultimate driving machine turn into joy. What is joy may I ask. BMW still can built the M cars as before. Less weight, less comfort festures and built with one and only reason. A ture sport car. on the other hand keep the mass market happy buy producing a higher performance car and call them M sport. the new M 5 is just too heavy, too soft and too much towards a luxry fast sedan. Where is the core value gone? having they forgot what is performance? dynamic? balance? Sorry to see BMW gone the same way as M Benz by building cheaper cars, gaining market shares and keep shareholders happy but forgoten the top top luxry brand.

  14. Socal says:

    Just relax everyone! I agree a more M version would be great, but honestly — who has track cars these days. Anyone fortunate enough to have one of these cars is probably looking to use it on his/her commute as much as any theoretical track…

  15. Horatiu says:

    Thanks everyone for the great comments.

    My opinion is somewhat impartial since I consider myself both an enthusiast and a business person. From an enthusiast point of view, I would love tomorrow to buy an M8, an M3 with V8 and lots of power,, and of course a super lightweight M3. These are my wishes.

    But, from a business perspective, I need to see and understand what are the margins on such cars vs R&D costs. How many BMW consumers will line up to buy a new M3 CSL? 1000? 3000? Maybe, but still a low number and not a mainstream car, especially since it will have a very high price.

    Now in order for M to stay relevant and profitable, mainstreaming has to occur, meaning, M cars that appeal not only to us, the true enthusiasts, fanboys, or whatever you wanna call us, but also to executives that love an M5 and have a family to carry around, or to the superstars that want an M6 that is not extremely rough but rather comfortable and powerful. And I can keep on going.

    Now onto these special editions M3: yes, no power upgrade, yes you can get the same car and yes, it’s a bit silly, but it’s simply just a way for BMW to put together a package that they think it looks good and buy at a similar price that you would get it from the dealership but without the negotiation hassle.

    Last thing: when I first saw the Jalopnik article, I said: WOW, he’s right on, but then reading and analyzing the facts, it opened my eyes and realized that I would do the same if I was the CEO of BMW. Well, minus one thing: we and M, needs a new supercar, not because they will sell tons and make money, but rather cause it will help the brand image and will shut up some of us.

    My prediction, and I am willing to bet on it, is that BMW M will have a supercar on the market within 5 years, not the i8, but a “real supercar”.

    Again, thanks everyone for commenting and being part of our community.

    • BMW The Best says:

      About the supercar: let’s hope.

    • Manchester Man says:

      spot on!! whats the point of producing NA M cars with lots of cylinders if it’s going to dent their business model! i dont see anyone in the right mind being happy to make losses in their businesses just to please a few fans! BMW should be applauded for increasing efficiency and still keeping most of the driving dynamics intact! people need to watch the 1 M coupe and F10 M5 review on top gear to help them realise that BMW M is still the bomb.

  16. f30 says:

    Well, the new M3 should have significant weight savings.. lets see. That car looks like it will be a revolutionary model.

  17. Chris says:

    I agree with the author. The M brand should stand for “pureness” and “performance”, not tasteless special editions. They lost me already back in 2010 with the tacky BMW M3 Tiger Edition…
    I think that is the main problem the M division has. The managers who make the decisions might know everything about engineering performance but they have absolutely no taste! There is nothing wrong with a cosmetic update or marketing exercises to sell more cars. But do it with taste, authenticity and stay true to the letter M!!

  18. Chris Parente says:

    Kudos to the blog for highlighting this article. I think the “M Performance” line dilutes what M means more than special versions. Horatiu, you make good points too about how BMW is a business that needs to be profitable. Some of the things they do may just be following the market, not making the market.

    I wrote about what M means back in January, hope a link is OK: http://cparente.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/what-does-bmw-m-mean-anymore/

  19. FreudeKing says:

    His response was along the line of ‘I don’t know, I won’t be working here when that happens.”

    This is exactly the type of low lives that are currently working for BMW and managing BMW at the top with disgusting attitudes like these! Who cares about the future of BMW, when it goes down due to our short term focus to get some benefit now, I won’t be around to suffer with BMW. They all know they are damaging the brand in teh future but they don’t care.

    I would so fire people like these!

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