BMW’s Job Is Getting Harder

Interesting, Others | May 8th, 2015 by 12
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BMW — A company built on the premise of creating the most engaging driving experience possible through innovation and technology. That may sound like the …

BMW — A company built on the premise of creating the most engaging driving experience possible through innovation and technology. That may sound like the marketing pitch for every auto maker in the business, but for BMW it really is true. Look throughout the company’s history and you’ll see a trend of cars that are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and in each and every one of those boundary breaking cars, technology is at the forefront.

Though as we move forward through time, BMW’s core premise is becoming harder to fulfill. Not that inventing new technologies and innovations is becoming more difficult, quite the contrary in fact. The difficult part seems to be keeping the engaging driving experience along with the technology. As cars become more and more connected, assisting and even autonomous, the interaction between man and machine is starting to numb. This isn’t BMW’s fault, or the fault of any manufacturer, but simply the demand of the times.

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People want cars that can park themselves, alert them of incoming collisions, drive themselves on highways and even wake them when they’re falling asleep. This requires an incredible amount of automation, thus taking some of the control away from the driver. How can a car possibly become more engaging when less control is being given to the driver? It simply cannot. Which is the predicament BMW seems to be in.

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At the moment, journalistic publications seem to be ripping into BMW’s latest sports cars for not having enough “feel” or feedback through the inputs. Electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) has numbed the famous connected steering feel which BMW was once famous for. This is fine to people with logical enough brains to accept the fact that times are changing. Yet every journalist on earth seems to hate these new setups, simply because they aren’t the old ones. Then people read this reviews of BMW’s latest sports cars, usually without driving one, and decide that BMW is no longer making proper sports cars.

However, on the flipside of the coin, if BMW were to ignore current global situations and stick with hydraulic power steering, throw out all electronic aids and remove enough sound deadening material to hear the exhaust loud and clear, customers would complain and go buy a Lexus. BMW engineers said that when calibrating the EPAS in their newer cars, giving them better steering feel is possible, but it’s not what customers want. And as much as fanboys don’t want to hear this, customer opinions and sales figures are what drive all companies, BMW included. BMW can’t listen to the millions of fanboys who beg them to make a modern E30 M3.

If you still think driving engagement will sell over all else, ask Cadillac how the ATS and CTS are doing. The two cars so commonly lauded to be superior driver’s cars to the 3 Series and 5 Series have sales figures that are not at the expected levels. Customers don’t want great “feel”, they want a luxurious driving experience, especially when paying the premium required to buy a car of BMW’s caliber.

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Now, this is not to say that current BMWs aren’t engaging to drive, because that wouldn’t even be close to the truth. BMWs are very engaging to drive, even if they aren’t dripping with the feedback which once occupied the experience of the E30. Hoon an M4 and try not to smile. Go ahead, try. It might not even be possible. But with customers demanding more and more automation and electronic aids, how much longer will engaging cars last? How long can BMW blend the two realms of innovative technology and driving engagement? Being that the Bavarians have been doing it for almost a century, I’m sure they’ll figure out a way. But the road isn’t getting any smoother, as each new technology seems to serve as another bump in the road to driver engagement.

12 responses to “BMW’s Job Is Getting Harder”

  1. Locke42 says:

    A simple (though not necessarily ideal) solution would be to design a model specifically aimed at enthusiast drivers, and price it the same as the 3-Series. The result of such a design would unavoidably be “less car” for the money (i.e. fewer luxury features, smaller body, smaller engine, etc.), but it would fulfill fanboys’ wishes.

    Basically, BMW should make a BMW equivalent of the Mazda Miata.

    • Kaisuke971 says:

      They would not sell enough and it would be a commercial fail. There is no room for such a car in BMW range imo.

    • Icebreaker says:

      WTF why would bmw make a car like that? that is the opposite of BMW. BMW ARE SPORTS LUXURY CARS. WHY ARE YOU EVEN ON THIS WEBSITE LOCKE42? STUPIDEST COMMENT IVE EVER READ IN MY LIFE.

      • Locke42 says:

        I didn’t say BMW should make a car that DOESN’T have luxury. I said BMW should make a car with less luxury, but more sport. Like the 2-Series, but even more skewed towards sporty driving.

        Pls learn to read.

        P.S.
        It’s kind of pathetic to upvote your own comment.

        • Icebreaker says:

          no BMW know how to mix luxury and sport into one.

        • Max says:

          What do you think is the M2? It is for all these enthusiasts out there. Just buy one and have fun!!

          • Locke42 says:

            The M2 will be ridiculously expensive (just like all M models). I’m talking about making the 2-series more sporty than it already is (even if they have to sacrifice some luxury accoutrements) and keeping it at the same price point.

  2. Reino-five-five-oh says:

    I have yet to find one tech feature on my BMW that lessens my driver involvement. In fact, I enjoy things like automatic headlights and wipers because that’s one less thing I have to do that would otherwise distract from my driving.

  3. jason bourne says:

    BMW’s job is getting harder because the cars have gotten bigger and bloated and they’ve diluted the brand with all the different models.

  4. Max says:

    Nice article. I like it when people are realistic and not blind or no brained, to all of them: WAKE UP! Times have changed! Its exactly what you mentioned here,
    “BMW engineers said that when calibrating the EPAS in their newer cars, giving them better steering feel is possible, but it’s not what customers want. And as much as fanboys don’t want to hear this, customer opinions and sales figures are what drive all companies”
    you can apply the same to Apple or whatever..
    I think the M2 will be the perfect car for all “old schoolers” out there. And to all these “journalists” you mentioned or better, these who are trying to be one. I dont give a shit! They are just dissatisfied people when they are getting cars later then other colleagues and then making bad or not objectiv reviews, and this is true! The problem with that is, there are so many stupid people who believe in these idiots or in surveys like JD Power. Does anyone know that JD Power is aksing just very very little customers? Why are people value these surveys and don’t just take a ride and try by thereselves? Sad world :D

  5. Ken says:

    EPS is being forced down the consumer’s throat because governments are excerting pressures to make cars more lightweight and because they are much cheaper to produce. Stop with the propaganda please, claiming that consumers are voting with their dollars on this one. Unless of course you want to make the claim that the Chinese market is dictating BMW’s direction, where today’s wealthy buyers solely care about the brand’s logo and could care less about the driving experience. Which means that BMW is abandoning their niche and will eventually fail. I can buy a numb feeling Toyota for far less than a BMW since instead of driving feel it is tuned for robust reliability. By offering nothing different or better, the company will alienate their customers and eventually destroy their brand.

    • Ken says:

      Take for example the new front wheel drive X1 which is aimed at these very buyers. Sales might initially spike as never-before BMW owners flock to the new lower price thrilled they can finally afford a bummer. But wait until they find out that unlike a Toyota the car needs to be maintained and regularly serviced or else it will fail, and that parts cost more than double, and they will never buy another BMW again. In the end you will have a brand which lost it’s reputation and prestige and offers nothing but a more ‘problematic’ car to the consumer. One reason BMW is so respected is that perhaps more so than any other brand, it has a loyal community who swear by their products and create free PR. Bash the enthusiasts all you want, they are the lifeblood of the company and when they disappear, so will BMW’s competitive advantage.

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