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      07-10-2012, 08:04 AM   #1
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Jalopnik: "The Death Of BMW’s M Brand"

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The Death Of BMW’s M Brand
Bill Caswell

BMW's announcement today of the Lime Rock Edition M3 was the final nail in the coffin for me. The company that claims more 24-Hour wins at the Nürburgring than any other manufacturer just launched a track edition M3 that has no serious performance improvement over the current M3.

It's basically bolt-on Pep Boys parts like a flat bottom Knight Rider steering wheel and special paint. And I'm guessing there is a Lime Rock track map sticker somewhere or a plaque on the dash that tells you this is something special. But that's just it. This isn't something special. It's simply a marketing exercise. A fraud. Not unlike pumping a fake engine noise through the car stereo like BMW does with the M5.

It's for guys who want to be associated with racetracks but don't actually go to the track themselves. It's for the modern poser racer. A luxury version of those fast and furious Honda civics with race seats and belts but stock engines that kids drive around on the street.

I can't wait to meet the guy that buys these Lime Rock editions. He's the one that checks out of his hotel in the morning wearing his fire suit for his BMW CCA driver school session that doesn't start till 10 am because he wants the girl at the front desk to know that he is "racing" today. That guy.

The one that wears firesuits because he wants to be a racer even though he's in his street car that he takes to the train every day. That's who will buy this car.

So why is it so painful? The M brand used to mean something. Really mean something. To me and auto enthusiasts everywhere. I can't think of a performance division of a company with more creditability than BMW's motorsport brand back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

To fully appreciate this you need a little history in BMW M brand. It was created to build homologation specials. Cars built for specific racing series in minimum quantity to meet the rules. It started with the M1 in 1978. Then came hand-build 5 series cars that at one point were the fastest sedans in the world – as delivered from the factory.

Next came the original M3, known to us car guys as the E30 M3. Built by BMW for one purpose. To win races. And it won so much its known as the most winning chassis in touring car history. This was BMW's M brand.

So what is it now? Besides the M3, we have am M1 (or 1 Series M Coupe so it's not to be confused with the real M1).

To be fair, this car is amazing. I love it. But BMW built 800 or so and called it a day. Did one go racing? Not that I know of. And then there are the M brand SUVs: an X6M and a X5M. Did either of these go racing? Sort of. BMW gave one to a journalist to compete in One Lap of America this year and it got beat by a Jeep Cherokee. A Jeep Cherokee took down the M Brand. (Ed. Note: Matt Farrah should be along soon to explain how the Jeep was modified and the X5 M was not.)

Now to be fair BMW ran the new M5 — yes the one with the fake engine noises — in One Lap and it won its "Luxury Sedan" class. So my point is that BMW no longer makes high performance automobiles known as the Ultimate Driving Machine. They now make luxury automobiles that are the ultimate motorsport poser mobile.

There is no car that says "I want to pretend I'm a performance driver, a racer, but never go to the track" more than the current M brand. It's a fraud leveraging the company's rich racing history and it pisses me off.

Let's took a look at that racing history that the brand was created for. When was the last time BMW won an F1 race? Le Mans? Any of the large sports car races other than Sebring? I'm ignoring Grand Am where BMW races against KIAs and Dinan builds engines for a prototype team. That doesn't count as a factory program. About the only race on the planet that Nürburgring which happened last in the ALMS M3 car in 2010.

Ever seen that ALMS car? Its nothing like the production car we buy. It has double wishbone front suspension. EVERY M3 ever sold has McPherson front struts. And we haven't even gotten to the weirdo rear transaxle deal with its built-in air conditioning pump. Huh, was that a factory option?

My point is that BMW used to build amazing street cars to meet the rules of racing and win. Now they choose races with loose rules and bring cars nothing like the one we buy and turn around and sell us models that have nothing to do with racing other than the sticker on the dash.

So back to today's Lime Rock Edition M3 that BMW just announced. How does this thing even get approved? I can picture the conversation in the marketing department now:

BMW Marketing Guy 1: Guys we really need to leverage our M brand.

Let's release an M3 with a race track associated with it. Yeah like that big one in Germany Nutterburgerringring or something. But I hear that place is expensive to rent, maybe we should use that track near headquarters here in the US, Lime Rock?

BMW Marketing Guy 2: Yeah!

BMW Marketing Guy 1: Don't we already sponsor that track? Sweet, lets make a lime rock edition.

BMW Marketing Guy 2: Whats that mean?

BMW Marketing Guy 1: I dont know but people will think its special.

BMW Marketing Guy 2: Really? Why?

BMW Marketing Guy 1: Well, because we'll paint it a special color and add all our interior add ons like the Knight Rider wheel with the flat bottom!

BMW Marketing Guy 2: But shouldn't it have a signfiicant increase in performance to have a racetrack badge on it?

BMW Marketing Guy 1: No, No, No, the car doesn't need to be faster or handle better because we named it after a racetrack! Just the opposite. Leave the engine the same and give it one of our handling packages that we already have. Like the competition package, that sounds like it should be on a track car.

BMW's Motorsport Brand has lost its soul, and will slowly fade into marketing mediocrity. A friend pointed out another company with a rich history in racing that abandoned it roots and went after the luxury auto market: Saab.

Obviously, BMW wont go bankrupt anytime soon, but what happens when all the luxury buyers that fell in love with performance brand in the 1980's stop driving cars? I don't have that answer but three years ago I asked a marketing executive at BMW this exact question after he told me BMW was supporting Golf and Yachting.

His response was along the line of 'I don't know, I won't be working here when that happens.'

Time will tell.

I don't see it quite this drastic, but he pretty much nailed it
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      07-10-2012, 08:12 AM   #2
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      07-10-2012, 08:41 AM   #3
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You think corporate ever reads stuff like this?
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      07-10-2012, 08:53 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghetto2315 View Post
You think corporate ever reads stuff like this?
I wish. This article captures what many enthusiasts have felt about the M division for a while.

Post E9x M3...I won't be buying a M product. (Not that M needs my money to survive anyways).

Here's to a future where all ///M engines will be nothing more than a fast and glorified vacuum cleaner.
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Last edited by checkmate; 07-10-2012 at 09:04 AM.
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      07-10-2012, 09:06 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by highyo View Post
sounds like a guy who can't afford an m car
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      07-10-2012, 09:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghetto2315 View Post
You think corporate ever reads stuff like this?
Bingo!! Nope!

It's all about ///Money! That's why Porsche has an SUV and 4 door saloon now. You think a business that has the potential to make money gives a crap about every enthusiast nearly dropping over dead at the announcement of an SUV in development? Not a chance.
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      07-10-2012, 09:21 AM   #7
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BMW is in the business of making cars and money.

Without money, they cannot make cars.

Thus they must maximize profits in every way possible.
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      07-10-2012, 09:23 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Tanglewood View Post
BMW is in the business of making money.

Without money, they cannot make money.

Thus they must maximize profits in every way possible.

fixed.
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      07-10-2012, 09:39 AM   #9
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article is stupid. the ignorance i just read parallels the stupidity associated with the disdain surrounding the f30 m3 going to be a biturbo I6. natural aspiration is simply going to be the norm in performance cars with the upcoming mpg mandate in the united states.
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      07-10-2012, 09:56 AM   #10
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Everyone is entitled to their opinion. He does make some valid points.

But I notice that, in one breath, he trashed the guy who actually planned to take his car to the track, while in the next breath he trashed people for pretending to be drivers but never taking their cars to the track.

He also laid into the non-stock configuration of the ALMS or Le Mans M3 race cars, but then utterly dismisses the Grand Am series - where real stock M3s actually do compete in the GS class - citing the Kia competition.

In other words the author does demonstrate a bit of hypocrisy, at least at some level of abstraction, and seems to really enjoy ranting.

All MHO.
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      07-10-2012, 10:06 AM   #11
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people love to bitch moan and complain
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      07-10-2012, 10:12 AM   #12
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I do think BMW is getting a little generous with the M Badges.
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      07-10-2012, 10:20 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by highyo View Post
sounds like a guy who can't afford an m car
Bill Caswell has owned more bmw's then probably 90% of the members here.

http://caswellmotorsport.com/?page_id=551

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      07-10-2012, 10:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple Derple View Post
jalopnik (and all of gawker) are big-time whiners. They love to speak authoritatively about stuff they don't know about after reading wikipedia articles.
you should read their article about the switzer GTR from last week.

absolute glowing review from Jalopnik
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      07-10-2012, 10:41 AM   #15
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The reality is that today's businesses are all about money.
I hate it, but I'm a realist... BMW loves to make money out of people like us.
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      07-10-2012, 10:43 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisK View Post
I do think BMW is getting a little generous with the M Badges.
Exactly. M135i, MXXX, etc. is a joke. It's a good thing they don't need my money ('cause they aren't getting anymore).
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      07-10-2012, 10:52 AM   #17
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BMW is in business to make money... if they can stick badges on things and it sells, they'll do it.

I do think the M brand is pretty diluted but what isn't these days? Ferrari and Porsche have clothing stores... Honda used to have the NSX but now sell nothing sporty. Lexus markets their "F-Sport" cars which have very little sportiness to them. Mazda applies "Zoom Zoom" to every car they sell... none of which really have any zoom. It's all just marketing.
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      07-10-2012, 11:17 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkoesel View Post
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. He does make some valid points.

But I notice that, in one breath, he trashed the guy who actually planned to take his car to the track, while in the next breath he trashed people for pretending to be drivers but never taking their cars to the track.

He also laid into the non-stock configuration of the ALMS or Le Mans M3 race cars, but then utterly dismisses the Grand Am series - where real stock M3s actually do compete in the GS class - citing the Kia competition.

In other words the author does demonstrate a bit of hypocrisy, at least at some level of abstraction, and seems to really enjoy ranting.

All MHO.
I guess it doesn't take much accrediation to post on Jalopnik
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      07-10-2012, 11:39 AM   #19
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I think the author (Bill Caswell) has been watching too many girls while driving along the ocean drive, smashed up his Honda and as a result is soon ready for some emergency treatment. Since he cannot afford a ///M he bashes it ... I can only say get a life dude (meaning of course the original author Bill Caswell) no need to tell us folks about the ///M where it came from or where it will be in the future. Have a little respect for the folks that work for one of the major car manufactures in the world. An organization that is not shy to spend money on R&D to manufacture one of the finest cars money can buy.

We know our cars we don't need the likes of Bill Caswell to tell us about it.

Know this Bill Caswell, BMW ///M Division has developed a fine ///M car way back in 88 and has been improving on it every year. We all know that this trend will continue you can take that to the bank.
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      07-10-2012, 11:43 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkoesel View Post
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. He does make some valid points.

But I notice that, in one breath, he trashed the guy who actually planned to take his car to the track, while in the next breath he trashed people for pretending to be drivers but never taking their cars to the track.

He also laid into the non-stock configuration of the ALMS or Le Mans M3 race cars, but then utterly dismisses the Grand Am series - where real stock M3s actually do compete in the GS class - citing the Kia competition.

In other words the author does demonstrate a bit of hypocrisy, at least at some level of abstraction, and seems to really enjoy ranting.

All MHO.
I beg to differ...he's trashing the guys who tend to buy these special edition cars (with no meaningful track upgrade) the intention of tracking it. This LRP edition is a joke by all means and is not a lightweight track specialist.

He's also trashing people who own these high revving M cars but never take them to the track. These high revving M motors need to be at the track to attain their full potential...otherwise its pretty tame on the daily grind.

This explains why folks on this forum start supercharging their cars to get that low end grunt and higher speeds which is going against the historical ///M philosophy. Hell if supercharging the M was always going to be in the cards...an american muscle car like the GT500 would more than suffice for straight line duty and the occasional turns. The M division now builds heavy turbo charged cars which provide that low end grunt but fails on all counts as a sensory delight (be it steering or weight).

The beauty of pure N/A motors was the ability of the average weekend racers with some mechanical inclination to be able to work on their cars. With the inclusion of more and more sensors and chips to attain that performance.....the only place where M cars win the battle is in the hearts of software engineers and tuners with a penchant for the occasional DIY.

New M cars have no FIZZ.
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Last edited by checkmate; 07-10-2012 at 11:50 AM.
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      07-10-2012, 12:00 PM   #21
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I can't believe a company in the business of making money would want to maximize its profits.

There's a lot of talk about the ' death of the brand' of M, but it sounds like a lot of people are only interested in the car because of the badge itself says M. To me, that says status symbol. Which is, in my opinion, no better or worse than bmw slapping m badges on a 328 or 335. If the 'M brand' is more important than the actual vehicle itself for some people, then why wouldn't BMW take advantage of that and spread its appeal? I guess a better question would be, (and im not speaking to anyone in particular), but would you buy this exact same car, if it didnt say M3 on the back? I would.
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      07-10-2012, 12:09 PM   #22
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