BMW has taken much heat, these past few years, for creating odd-ball cars that fill niches that BMW themselves seem to have created. For example; BMW created the X6, a “Sports Activity Coupe”, a car segment which, until then, didn’t exist.
Now, say what you will about the X6, but sales of it skyrocketed, regardless of the fact that it was hopelessly impractical, and wasn’t really any good at being an SUV or a sports car or even a luxury, for that matter. People seemed to love it. Yet, enthusiasts were bemoaning the fact that BMW was straying from its roots and answering questions nobody had asked. BMW’s had both success (X6, 6 Series Gran Coupe) and failure (5 Series GT) with this approach, and is continuing this, niche creating, trend today. Are the folks in Munich genius’ or madmen?
BMW’s most recent attempt at this has been the X4, a car that while actually quite good, is creating a lot of head-scratching in the motoring world. Many publications, like Car and Driver and Motor Trend, seem to think that, while not bad, the car just doesn’t have a real purpose. By real world, actual vehicle usage, it doesn’t. But what it does do is create a want. People want something different and weird and cool, regardless of its obvious irrelevance.
The X3 is easily more practical and useful, while the 3 Series is the far better performer, but the X4 seems to blend both. Something of that nature had never existed before and until now people never knew that’s what they wanted. BMW created that want. Henry Ford once said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”. People don’t know what they want until you show them.
Customers aren’t the only ones who are taking notice, either. News has just broke about Mercedes-Benz making a, X6-fighting, GLE Class. BMW also created the X1 which, despite me liking it quite a bit, isn’t any more practical or useful than a 3 Series Wagon, yet it prompted Audi and Mercedes to create the Q3 and GLA Class, respectively. So, obviously, what BMW is doing works well enough to create competitive segments.
I’ll admit, I was one of those pitchfork-holding enthusiasts, claiming BMW is losing sight of what they do best. But then I realized that BMW is making a boatload of cash selling these impractical-yet-interesting, niche-creating cars. And with all of that money, they can afford to create some of the best performance cars on the road (2 Series, M3/M4, M6 Gran Coupe) and develop some of the most technologically advanced, ecologically-minded cars (i3/i8). So my hope is that, despite some of the silliness that can come out of this trend, it continues. This way BMW can afford to make the cars that matter to enthusiast while simultaneously creating the future.
Despite the bemoaning of enthusiasts and journalists, BMW may just be a bunch of geniuses.