|04-25-2012, 10:53 AM||#1|
Drives: 2011 E92 M3 DCT ZCP Mineral Wt
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Laguna Beach, CA
Article I wrote for Job at KBB
Hey Guys, just wanted to post an article I wrote as a writing sample for a journalism job at KBB. Figured some of you may get enjoyment out of it. Ended up getting a better job with Penske anyway...enjoy!
The BMW Identity Crisis
Since BMW's near sale to Mercedes-Benz in 1959, the two companies have been engaged in an epic battle for the sport-luxury vehicle market. Throughout the century-old rivalry, the dynamic duo has revolutionized the way consumers enjoy the newest feats of German engineering, from 50/50 near-perfect weight distribution to infrared pedestrian detectors.
BMW's successful 1960s introduction of what was then called the "New Class" identified the brand as a premium quality vehicle with an emphasis on drivability. The BMW 2002 was not only a blast to drive but also came with the sportiest interior and exterior styling. This was the inception of the concept of "Joy" to BMW's lineup and would be its secret to success for the next 50 years, thereby creating “The Ultimate Driving Machine”. A few years later, BMW created ///M Motorsports division to enhance the already exciting racing heritage bred into their vehicles.
Mercedes could not compete with the loyalty and demand created by BMW's branding. No matter their attempts at creating "Joy", Mercedes drivers were simply not experiencing the same sensation on the road. Designers and engineers scrambled to decipher what made the BMW such a thrill and soon realized their calling was not in the “Joy” of driving, but rather in the goal of comfort. It was from that point forward that Mercedes crafted its recipe of creating the most comfortable luxury vehicle on the market.
Now that the brands were defined and lines were drawn in the sand, it was only a matter of time before Japan saw an opportunity in the sport-luxury market. In 1989, Nissan's Infiniti and Toyota's Lexus brands began to carve out a piece of the action their German counterparts had since dominated for so long. By the mid-1990s, Japan had become a major competitor due to their reputation of reliability and comparatively inexpensive maintenance.
The German automotive industry felt threatened by Japan’s introduction to their market segment. What could be done to avoid the utter domination Japan rendered upon American brands in the economy car sector? It seemed the brand strategy from here was to optimize proficiencies by creating vehicles which would interest the entire spectrum of drivers. This move by BMW and Mercedes highlighted a shift from pure core competencies to a more conformist sales-driven approach.
Mercedes' success with its exquisitely comfortable S-Class lineup led BMW to create the 7 Series sedan. Although the first iteration in 1977 still held true to BMW's “Joy” to drive identity, the subsequent 1986 and 1994 models began trending more towards the Mercedes' identity of comfort. Each generation of 7 Series began showing more and more characteristics of Mercedes’ pursuit of comfort and less of BMW's original product identity.
As BMW focused their efforts to attract comfort-minded drivers, Mercedes conversely attempted to create “Joy” in driving. Impressed by the successes BMW had with the ///M division's 1987-99 M3 models, Mercedes answered the ///M division's M3 with the introduction of the very first AMG factory vehicle, the 1996 C36. Tighter handling and sportier interior and exterior appointments attracted BMW's loyalists. In subsequent model years, AMG mirrored the technological developments fostered in BMW’s ///M Motorsport racing heritage.
Fast-forwarding to the most recent decade, the trend has continued to denigrate BMW’s original “Joy” to drive identity, leaving BMW purists disappointed. Scores of car enthusiasts have compared the drivability of some of BMW's 2011 models to Mercedes, prioritizing comfort over performance. Similarly, the Mercedes AMG Black Edition vehicle design seemingly follows the BMW ///M Motorsport template.
BMW’s lost identity is a tragedy for purists hoping and waiting for the second coming of a "New Class" lineup. The unique and the intense rivalry of the 1960s German sport-luxury market fostered the birth of the “Joy” of driving. Purists can only hope BMW product designers rekindle their heritage and refocus the brand to recreate “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.
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