If BMW ever had a so-called golden age, it was probably around 2001, when the company was making cars like the benchmark-setting E46 M3 and E39 M5, and other incredible stuff like the S54-powered Z3 M coupe and roadster, the Z8, first-generation X5, and the E38 7 Series. This has been noted several times on here BimmerLife in the context of such cars, and although BMW followed up with an exceptional efforts like the S65 V8 of the following generation M3 and V10 in the E60 M5, many who consider themselves brand devotees agree that the high water mark came for BMW right after the start of the new millennium. In the twenty years since, more and more seem to be asking what, exactly, is happening.
When BMW was at its supposed peak in 2001, the brand held the coveted quality of being aspirational. These were cars people dedicated themselves to someday owning, because, for once, the reality of being behind the wheel was just as exciting (and even more satisfying) as seeing one on the street. BMW didn’t lose this appeal over night, but when the next generation of BMWs arrived, technology seemed to have taken center stage.
The i3 and the i8, both products of BMW’s obsessive focus on technology, represented a cutting-edge and timely entry to the electric vehicle market, but both were panned for their styling, and their complexity translated to high production costs. BMW has since abandoned the platform of both models, and although the i3 is a commercial success with over 200,000 units produced, BMW’s primary customer base seems to have long since moved on to embracing the next best thing.
So what’s going on with BMW? In a recent video published to his second YouTube channel, Doug DeMuro asks and attempts to answer the difficult question of what’s become of our favorite automaker. We’ll stop short of spoiling the contents of the video, but in the twenty years that have passed since BMW was building the E46 M3 and E39 M5, the brand has strayed from the qualities and core competencies that once made it exceptional, and now finds itself struggling to remain relevant, perhaps even to its best customers.
DeMuro doesn’t claim to have a magic elixir for BMW, or any clear strategy on what the brand should do, but his video presents a clear and concise synopsis of what seems to have happened, and what’s going on.
Where do you stand? Has BMW lost its way, or is the brand merely in a state of transition to the next century of its existence in what’s shaping up to be a vastly different world? On the other hand, is DeMuro correct in his assessment, and if so, what should BMW leadership do?—Alex Tock
[Photos and video courtesy BMW AG, Doug DeMuro on YouTube.]