Mar 222011
 

My post last Friday questioning whether there is a future for BMW enthusiasts struck a nerve. To date the article has been viewed over 500 times, and there have been numerous comments made in online forums.

Here’s a sampling of what I’m hearing from fellow enthusiasts. Many agreed with me, but some thought I was full of it:

I can’t understand why enthusiasts are so afraid of change. I’m sure everyone was crying when newfangled technologies like electronic fuel injection were coming out, but the world didn’t end and we still work on our cars. Eventually scan tools are going to be very capable and very inexpensive (it’s already happening) and it will be a part of every DIYer’s toolbox, just like a set of ratchets. (M3forum)

People have to stop complaining. BMW does not care about a few people who can’t even afford to buy the new models. If you are not happy with the product, then don’t buy it. Shortly after the loyal customers are gone, the sales will decrease. They will then build better cars and sell them for less so you are happy. Or they will just continue to make billions of dollars and grow in sales(Bimmerfest)

Wish we could go back to the blistering acceleration of e30’s, e28’s, etc <sarcasm> Today I drove the e36 M3 into work. It is no faster than a 535xiT (read WAGON). Sorry, the golden age is here. (Bimmerforum)

And here are some more intelligent replies — just kidding critics:

Thirty years ago, BMW’s market was pretty much the enthusiast: someone who enjoyed a well-handling, satisfying car to drive. The Yuppies changed all that when they discovered the marque. They were only interested in showing off the Roundel, and eschewed manual transmissions. BMW then began to pander to that market, which was LOTS bigger than that of the enthusiast.

Whether or not BMW will continue to design and build driver’s cars remains to be seen. Certainly, the current 5-series has become a mini-7-series, and has lost it’s sporting image in the car press. BTW, I was at the dealer’s parts counter yesterday, and the counter man quipped, “Keep that E39 running, it’s a great car: V8 and a 6-speed.” (Bimmerfest)

A very interesting read Chris. I have reservations about turbos in terms of long term reliability – the added stress and temperatures will not allow for the engines to last as long as a normally aspirated mill. Even more than forced induction, what turns me off is all of the gadgetry that is found in the newer BMWs. Anyway, I hope to keep my M3 forever as a “classic”. It exemplifies everything I always liked about the marque, but they have clearly moved on for better or worse. You cannot argue with the financial success they have enjoyed in recent years. (M3forum)

The most thorough response definitely came from Mike Miller, long-time columnist for Bimmer and Roundel magazines. His interview with me back in October is one of the most popular posts ever published on this blog. Here’s his take:

1) You don’t need a new BMW to be a BMW enthusiast. Being a BMW enthusiast or even a garden-variety BMW driver does not necessarily mean one has to have a new BMW and replace it with another new BMW every few years. There are plenty of BMW enthusiasts who never buy a new BMW and others buy one every 10+ years. My oldest BMW is 35 years of age, and my newest is six. I have no plans to buy a new BMW, not because I have some objection to the way they’re built, but because I don’t need a new BMW.

2) You can maintain your car whatever way you want; it is YOUR car. If you buy a new BMW, you are entitled to maintain it according to a viable common-sense mileage-based maintenance schedule calculated for long-term ownership. But that does mean doing it the old fashioned way, which means actually paying for it even during the warranty period. But if you keep the car past the warranty and past 100,000 miles, you’re going to pay one way or there other: More maintenance now or more repairs later.

3) You’ll still be able to buy a new BMW, but it may take longer. I don’t think we can blame BMW for directing build allotments to its most profitable markets and I recognize that the “most profitable markets” are going to be a moving target in general. I also think there are unintended consequences for a leader in automotive technology to place a great deal of sales reliance upon a nation well-known for trademark violations and counterfeiting just about everything. But the practical reality of shifting build allotments is that here in the U.S. it will become necessary for some new BMW buyers to special-order their cars and wait for them to be built.

A few months of patience will be required. This is not such a bad thing and in fact I’d say it’s a good thing. It is also the way the rest of the world buys BMWs. Special-order builds are going to be practically required for anyone who wants, for example, a manual gearbox, a vinyl interior, a color that isn’t black, white, silver or gray, and certainly for someone who does not want all the gizmos and gadgets.

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