Editorial: Does BMW need a supercar?

Interesting | October 30th, 2016 by 27
BMW M1 Design Study 2 750x500

Despite being the most valuable luxury car brand in the world and having built a reputation with taglines like “Sheer Driving Pleasure” and the “Ultimate …

Despite being the most valuable luxury car brand in the world and having built a reputation with taglines like “Sheer Driving Pleasure” and the “Ultimate Driving Machine”, it’s a bit ironic that BMW doesn’t sell a supercar.

Mercedes has the AMG GT, Audi has the R8 and even Honda has a car that it believes can give the Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis a run for their money (read: Acura NSX).

Yet, BMW is content with making mass-segment cars that can be used daily and doesn’t see the need for a 911 Turbo or Ferrari F12 competitor. Why is that?

Ferrari 430 Scuderia Red 148 750x498

Limited Resources

Despite ending 2015 as the highest selling luxury carmaker in the world, BMW is a small company compared to its primary rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Audi is backed by the Volkswagen Group, which had the highest R&D expenditure among all the carmakers last year, and the only reason R8 is a feasible product is because it shares majority of its components with the Lamborghini Huracan.

On the other hand, Daimler’s revenue is significantly more than BMW Group’s, which allows it to spend money on developing a supercar like the AMG GT. Not to forget, Mercedes also borrows technologies from its championship-winning F1 program.

dynamic mercedes amg gt 750x453

While it’s still one of the most innovative companies around, BMW needs to be more conservative when it comes to its resources and a supercar would certainly require a significant investment. Tesla’s success has accelerated the shift towards EVs and autonomous technology by at least a decade and those are the areas that BMW wants to focus on right now.

  Revenue (2015) R&D Expenses (2015) Employees
Volkswagen Group $236.6 billion $15.3 billion 610,076
Daimler $165.8 billion $ 7.6 billion 284,015
BMW Group $102.25 billion $ 5.5 billion 122,244


Supercars Aren’t Good for Business

Bugatti lost tons of money on each Veyron it made and while the figure of $6.24 million quoted by the folks at Bernstein Research in 2009 may be a bit exaggerated, making the world’s fastest car wasn’t profitable.

Meanwhile, Lamborghini barely had the money to produce a single model until it came under the Volkswagen umbrella and it was the mass segment Boxster that prevented Porsche from going bankrupt in the early 1990s. Furthermore, Porsche’s ever-improving revenue stream is more down to the Cayenne rather than the 911 Turbo.

In fact, Ferrari, which sells a freaking T-Shirt for $60, is able to survive the car business only because of its F1 sector. And out to the east, we have Lexus, which spent a decade to come up with the LFA only to make a loss on every car (which is fine when your parent company earns more than the GDP of Portugal).

What I am trying to imply is that building supercars isn’t a lucrative task and BMW can’t afford to undertake a project that can potentially risk thousands of jobs, especially all they will get is an extra dose of publicity.

What about The i8?

BMW i3 and the BMW i8 Garage Italia CrossFade-17

Apart from being a publicity gimmick, supercars (and ‘hypercars’) are also intended to showcase the technological prowess of the automakers. And BMW has the i8 for that.

It may have less power than a Cayman GT4, but the engineering behind it- the carbon-fiber monocoque, plug-in hybrid powertrain with a mid-engine configuration and the futuristic design with laser headlamps- serves as a reminder to others what BMW is truly capable of.

The technology from the i8 will trickle down to the next generation of Bimmers and that serves the ideal purpose of a ‘supercar’ for BMW. Or maybe a future i8 – with more power and other cool tech – might be the supercar of the future that many will try to copy.

Conclusion- It’s all About Marketing

BMW makes it money by producing mass segment cars that are fun to drive and are practical. It has never been a supercar company and thanks to its motorsport DNA, everyone knows that BMW makes driver’s cars. The same couldn’t have been said for, say, Audi, until it came up with the R8 or Lexus until it had the LFA on its portfolio. For these companies, supercars give them bragging rights. BMW simply doesn’t need that as it has spent decades building a reputation on the performance of its cars. What it needs is a ‘halo car’, like the i8. It combined the best of technology and sustainability without a heavy sacrifice on the driving experience.

27 responses to “Editorial: Does BMW need a supercar?”

  1. Natan Jihadi says:

    The pathetic bmw doesn’t have competency to produce a supercar. The fastest car they can produce is the crap called m5.

  2. Kaisuke971 says:

    No, they just need to build a proper BMW.

  3. Fritz says:

    I’m glad Solanki pointed out the fact that Audi is part of a corporation that also owns Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche.

    People tend to forget that when they use the R8 as an argument in a BMW-supercar discussion.

  4. Giom says:

    It’s a very interesting article… it has raised some points that I haven’t considered yet. For me, it just boils down to, BMW knows what its doing – we may not always agree – even have different opinions on how and what they’re doing, but lets face it… BMW is still here, strong, confident and in control.

  5. Laurent from LYON, France says:

    Interesting article…but i am not totally agree with you. Bmw had a supercar : the M1 and the legetimity to build a new one… is still here ! and when u see how the audi R8 is considered by sports cars fans… comparable with the iconic 911 ! today Audi ( with also models like TTRS ) or Mercedes with the AMG GT can be considered as more sports brand than BMW.. so i thînk BMW should have a supercar and not only the i8 … just see how many R8 or 911 are sold compare to i8 :-(

  6. Maxime Durez says:

    As an enthousiast, I’d love to see BMW come up with a real, loud, truly fast supercar. But honestly, they’ve already got the i8 and they have done an outstanding job with it. It’s not the supercar we deserve, but it’s the image builder BMW needs! Who knows what the future might bring..

  7. 2sfhim says:

    All BMW “supercars” have been failures. The M1 was a very big commerial failure. In the 1990s Italdesign and BMW made the Nazca C2 concept cars – Alpina refused to make a production version because it would have been much too expensive and they thought there would be no market fo the supercar. At the same time for the same reason BMW cancelled the M8 which was only a prototype which wasn’t even close to be a road legal car. Finally the Z8 was commercially a success but technically a “failure” because it didn’t drive like a BMW.
    As for me, a Porsche 911 turbo is not a supercar but simply a Porsche 911, a sportscar – a Carrera GT is a supercar. The Audi R8 is not a supercar, it’s just an ugly fast Audi.
    In any case it’s an interestign article.

    • Breaking Cycles says:

      The R8 has a mid-engine V10, does 0-60 in the 2-3 second range, 6-digit price tag etc. How is it NOT a supercar?

  8. Jbg says:

    The e63 M6 was the closest we got in the modern era when a traditional super car made sense. And fabulous as it is it just wasn’t quite super enough. Maybe it’s that it could be mistaken for a 630d by those who don’t know. It was frustratingly close though. Which is also how I see the i8. If they just gave it to the M division and put the S55B30 in, we could have seen a car better than the new NSX – and a true ‘bargain Porsche 918’ – 2 years ago. So maybe it makes sense for BMW not to make a supercar but if you’re an M engineer, brand or project manager what do you feel when you look at an NSX, R8 or AMG GT? ‘We could do that and it would be so good.’ Yes. Yes it would.

  9. Lel says:

    Marketing is calling BMW’s are driver’s cars.

    Driver’s car are central or rear mounted engine, AWD and RWD full of pleasure cars. Not boring sedans with front engine and ancient rear wheel drive, what giving bad weight distribution.

  10. Albert says:

    What BMW need to do it drop a twin turbo v8 in the back of the i8 and call it a ///M8. They could even have a plugin version that retains the electric front drive (i8M)… but more importantly they could make a driver focused, lighter, manual, rwd only version with no electric drive (the ///M8). Give the body a facelift that is a little more aggressive on the looks and more focused on down force (e.g. front splitter, little more wing on the back). And Bam!, you got your self a supercar. Its a shame to have such a wonderful carbon tub with doors that make most supercar owners red faced jealous… and then have no real GO to back it all up. I don’t think a project like this would take one tenth the R and D money that a ground up build would take. They have all the parts already… they just need to bolt them together. Come on BMW… You know you want to!!!

  11. Bob Morane says:

    A 700 PS all electric i8 (call M8) would be all supercar BMW needs.

  12. Central Lifestyle says:

    Sounds like you’re making a lot of excuses on behalf on BMW. The i8 isn’t enough. They need to design and build, if not a supercar, at least a sportscar that can rival the Mercedes AMG-GT and Porsche 911. BMW’s M division isn’t pulling its weight like Mercedes’ AMG division is doing. Merc is now awake to VW’s Porsche ever enlarging portfolio. Merc is responding and seemingly looking like they’ll be decisive winners in that luxury sportcar category pretty soon. BMW and their M division need to get in there. There ought to be an exclusively designed and built M car by now, not based on any series, just built ground up as a sportscar halo vehicle for BMW

    • Ofentse Letsholo says:

      I agree with you, he’s making a lot of excuses on behalf of BMW…if they could do electric /hybrid cars like i Division cars where their BIG competitors are not fully investing what will make BMW fail where their competitors are also invested?! BMW has R & D money to invest in electric but can’t in a super car?! really now.

  13. Giom says:

    I think, when it comes to M, get rid of all the bean counters and let the enthusiasts do what they do best… build lean mean and fast M cars!

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