BMW is trying to embrace a new customer segment right now, and whether or not the whole thing is going to work out remains up for debate. You can see it in the commercials and other advertisements for cars like the 3 Series and the X2, while the brand’s expanded marketing efforts have branched out into the hipster scene surrounding graffiti and the social and cultural phenomena that characterize the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, among others.
However, the latest foray into this ambitious marketing strategy doesn’t focus on brand heritage or some type of motorsport achievement—honestly, we’ve had plenty of those, haven’t we? Instead, like another fairly recent collaboration—or collab, as the kids say—BMW is embracing the street, but not in the way those of us who are concerned with tire pressures and tread compounds would ever consider. This time the brand has worked with a streetwear company out of New York City—a metropolis not often closely associated with driving culture or motoring enthusiasm—to create a special edition of the M4 Competition.
The company is called Kith (picture a lisping Gene Simmons), and it is apparently something called a lifestyle brand; a visit to the website reveals an array of contemporary articles, including $60 T-shirts and hats, $350 sweat sets, and various other odds and ends from underwear and socks to pens and wallets—all with a premium price tag. Founded in 2011 by footwear enthusiast Ronnie Fieg, the company is said to operate under a guiding principle of “giving the consumer more than what they pay for.”
Regardless of how you feel about the styles for sale on Kith’s website, which features a number of other brand collaborations for things like skincare products and drinkware, there is strong demand for stuff like this. Kith is by no means the first streetwear brand to sell products at a luxury price point, and these brands have achieved success by peddling classic consumer goods with a new spin on design and marketing. Does anyone actually need a $50 beanie, or perhaps better yet, a $30 branded clay brick, the latter of which sold out in minutes and now fetches around $150?
The obvious answer is no.
However, while it’s easy to dismiss these offerings by saying money doesn’t buy class or refined taste, there are certainly people out there who do feel that they need these items—and they’re voting with their pocketbooks. More established brands have taken notice as well; a list of previous Kith collaborations reveals a number of big names.
And this is what leads us to the BMW M4 Competition x Kith.
Why the x? The answer is quite simple; the modern world of brand collabs is too cool for words like and or by.
Aside from the decline of Standard Written American English, what exactly does the Kith treatment bring to an M4 Competition? To start, the changes are exclusively aesthetic, with an otherwise unmodified 500-horsepower G82 M4 Competition serving as the base. The touches come courtesy of Kith founder Ronnie Fieg, who says, “Everything we work on at Kith has to come from an authentic place.” With that ethos in mind, Fieg drew upon a lifetime of appreciating BMW automobiles—and early childhood memories of visiting his grandfather, who owned an E21 320i. Fieg has carried these traditions forward in his own life through the ownership of his own E30 M3, which was recently the subject of a full restoration and customization effort at the hands of BMW M, with Fieg’s own personal touches added.
Unveiled in recent weeks alongside Fieg’s freshly revitalized E30 M3 was the M4 Competition design study by Kith, which can be viewed as the catalyst for the M4 Competition x Kith. The modifications seem to have massaged the M4 Competition with special touches in select places that complement each other to set the vehicle apart from its conventional stablemates.
Perhaps most notably, this collaboration is the first time BMW has altered the roundel badge—both on the car itself and with its use on the 93 styles of apparel and accessories available through the Kith for BMW 2020 collection.
The exterior of the M4 Competition x Kith bears perhaps the largest change from a garden-variety M4 Competition. Production is limited to 150 units (all of which are spoken for) and there are just three color choices, including Frozen Dark Silver, Frozen Brilliant White, and the Frozen Black on display here. All of these finish options are matte in terms of appearance, which stands as another indicator of the audience BMW is targeting.
The roundel badge fitted to the hood seems to have taken inspiration from BMW’s vintage motorsport roundel, at least in terms of color choice and the use of a surrounding ring. That roundel commemorates the partnership with Kith, noting the brand’s 2011 founding and the 2021 model year of the M4 Competition x Kith. On the trunk lid, instead of the traditional M logo followed by the model designation (M4 in this case), there’s an M-colors badge which reads Kith instead. BMW doesn’t make specific note of it, but the carbon-fiber roof panel displays the same M-Kith lettering, while the wheels resemble the conventional M3 and M4 Competition offering, once again in black.
The cabin is home to significantly more noticeable design touches, with the illuminated M-Kith logos present on the front seats just below the headrests, flanked by cutouts (which are present on the optional M carbon bucket seats) where a harness can pass through. Seating upholstery features an embossed Kith design on all four headrests, while multi-color Merino leather in blue and red also vies for your attention. The embossed leather is also present on the center console armrest, and just ahead of it is yet another M-Kith logo. You can’t see it in the press photos, but ambient mood lighting (using special illumination tones) is also part of the treatment.
How much? The BMW M4 Competition x Kith starts at $109,250, not including the $995 destination charge, and the special-edition M car will be a limited-production model, with just 150 units produced—all of which will come with M xDrive to keep all four wheels on the ground. If you want one, you’re already too late: All 150 units sold out within just 30 minutes of the launch on October 23.
If you question whether this type of collaboration is a marketing success, regardless of how well it jibes with the BMW marque and its past, look at the last paragraph again: sold out within 30 minutes is the operative phrase. If you still need convincing, pay a visit to the Kith for BMW collection on the Kith website, where the vast majority of the 93 articles and items have long since sold out. The collection includes a number of different takes on the BMW roundel featuring Kith lettering, including a $65 cap which uses the vintage motorsport design mentioned above.
The BMW M4 Competition x Kith is simply another installment of BMW’s dedication to things outside the world of driving, and if you’ve ever worn a hat with the BMW roundel embroidered on it, cleaned your golf clubs off with a BMW Golfsport towel, or zipped on a BMW-branded windbreaker, you can appreciate what these efforts mean. The world of streetwear and footwear may seem far removed from the global community of diehard BMW aficionados, and a brand that once aimed their products at “polite society,” but if you’re willing to peel a few layers back, you might find that the differences aren’t as vast as they initially appear. BMW isn’t actually pulling one of these, and the marketing minds at Kith and BMW M actually have their fingers on the pulse of the community. After all, many of us are familiar with Henry Ford’s quote about customers initially desiring a faster horse as opposed to the disruptive innovation that was the automobile, and Steve Jobs’ famous thought about giving the customer what they want.
Big kidney grilles, collaborations with streetwear brands and graffiti artists, and divisive front-end designs may not be what we had in mind for the future of BMW when we first fell in love with the E30 or the 2002, yet here we are. What it means for the brand—and the company—over the long term remains anyone’s guess, but we’ll still be here along for the ride. Oh, and if you’re still concerned about the lack of motorsport heritage with the new M4 Competition x Kith, check out the official video below for a pleasant surprise.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]