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Gen Y Spoils Brands.

Posted in Posts, and Syllabus Schedule

Last year when I read that BMW was going to use front-wheel drive to propel the 1 Series, I was astounded. A FWD BMW is sacrilege. I’d been reading that BMW’s have been getting heavier, softer and worse to drive in many of my car magazines for a quite some time and as a happy driver of an old BMW I was fearful for the future of the brand that I trust. Peter M. De Lorenzo’s latest rant speaks on the how Mercedes-Benz and BMW are putting their brand equity on the line to attract new buyers with cheap cars that aren’t in line with their philosophies. To be considered a driver’s car BMW simply can’t have FWD. And sure, I recognize that fuel economy is important, but the move away from their characteristic inline 6 engines to power the base models in our market worries me as well. I’ve always thought of Mercedez-Benz as the ideal Teutonic luxury barge, but with coming models that will be priced competitively with some downmarket brands, I don’t know if I will be able to hold this image in my mind. There is the possibility that there will be a dichotomy within the brands between desirable models and undesirable models, but who wants that. If I were BMW I certainly wouldn’t.



  1. asher

    I find it highly unlikely that a brand quality “dichotomy” can exist–as we have seen before in the case of Ford and Chrysler, when you sacrifice the quality of your high-end brand(s) (for Ford, Jaguar, Lincoln, etc) to make them more competitive, you sacrifice the “high-end” label itself. You are right that BMW is heading down this road, but with any luck and a little hindsight they will reverse this trend before it becomes a permanent liability to the corporation.

    May 14, 2013
  2. Ah, but the Mini is a BMW, and it’s FWD isn’t it? The smaller the car, the more it makes sense.

    Separately, BMW is big into turbos because it allows smaller engines at no sacrifice in power. Dual-stage turbos with electronic wastegate controls are now available, and for large diesels there are now 3-stage turbos.

    That doesn’t mean they’ll continue to emphasize driving. After all, the number of consumers who can really tell the difference is pretty small, and if you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic in Beijing all you need is a put-put engine and … status. So maybe the smart strategy is to expand your market, which may mean creating cars that are easier/safer to drive and that won’t incur stiff fines for failing to meet fuel efficiency standards.

    May 14, 2013
  3. oliver

    I recognize that FWD has advantages at the expense of its added complexity. You can shove more stuff in a smaller space and have more cabin room for passengers, however there are numerous reasons why I feel that BMW shouldn’t adopt it. Unless creatively engineered, it leads to a front heavy weight distribution, which is very undesirable for handling. Often the transversely mounted engines and transmissions prevent the front wheels from turning as much providing a poor turning radius. Powerful FWD cars usually have problems with torque steer. And when you accelerate all the weight is taken off of the wheels of consequence.

    Turbo technology has been progressing astoundingly. The elimination of turbolag is important to the Efficient Dynamics philosophy; you can get a direct sporty feel with more powere at lower revs with less fuel consumption. And that is great, but the I6 engine is beautiful from a mechanical standpoint. It is the only cylinder arrangement aside from boxer engines and V12 (which are really just two I6’s stuck togeather) that produce no vibrations and require no counterweighting.

    If BMW continues getting away from RWD and mechanical beauty, the brand won’t mean anything to me anymore. And when I, one day, perhaps decide to buy a new car I’ll defect to another make, if there are any left that care about such concerns.

    May 14, 2013

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