nderwater HalfDork
Oct. 22, 2010 12:08 p.m.

(aka shameless self promotion)

Times are tough for carmakers. Sales volumes are down, profit margins are razor thin. In this environment it is critical that carmakers don't make any mistakes as they defend their place in the market... Which is why I'm so critical when I see my favorite auto brands making boneheaded decisions.

Take BMW. For generations, BMW has taken pride in producing some of the best sport sedans on the planet. Their cars featured smooth, powerful engines, excellent balance and handling, and rear wheel drive. And from among these, the flagship M3 model offers Porsche 911-like performance and sophistocation, but with much more practicality and a lower price tag. The BMW M3 has become an automotive icon, the benchmark by which all other sports sedans are measured.

Given that, today's news that the M3 sedan is to be replaced by an awkwardly styled five-door hatchback is stunning. If the M3 is so widely lauded, why on earth would BMW push it into a new market segment? Is it because Porsche is trying a similar move with its ugly five-door Panamera?

This week BMW also confirmed its intention to begin selling entry-level, front wheel drive cars. Nevermind BMW's long history of RWD performance cars, or that BMW's MINI division already sells cars in this segment.  Pushing for profit has eclipsed common sense.

BMW, Porsche, Lotus - Please don't turn your back on your heritage by entering market segments where you don't belong. Short term sales volume gains are not worth erasing what your companies stand for. Abandon what makes your cars unique and it is only a matter of time before buyers forget why your cars are any different than everything else on the road.

Oct. 22, 2010 1:03 p.m.

The hatchback thing doesn't really look too bad to me - at least the view they had at the top. Kind of like a newer version of the 318ti body style, which didn't do too badly in Europe even if it wasn't well received over here.

And this is part of BMW's heritage, too. They've made small, cheap cars before. And Mercedes has been selling the A-Class for quite a while without cheapening their image over here somehow.

nervousdog Reader
Oct. 22, 2010 1:15 p.m.

I for one welcome our new Bavarian 5-door hatch Overlords.

I work for a German company here in America. They all own American cars. The way they talk about BMW and Mercedes is the same way we discuss Ford and Chevy. BMW is the biggest producer of fleet cars in Europe. My coworkers get a certain "rental car" tone to their voice when I start talking about wanting an M3.

alfadriver SuperDork
Oct. 22, 2010 1:30 p.m.

What if you have only two choices?

Sell out to the market, and sell cars that are outside of your "core" so that you can sell cars at a profit, and make money?

Or

go out of businesss?

Heratige is pointless if you can't sell enough cars.

integraguy Dork
Oct. 22, 2010 1:31 p.m.

Audi is working on a competitor to this hatchback M3. They are also about to bring to market an A7 that is available as a 5 door hatch. And to go further? Jag is working on a "baby" Jag that is at the stage prior to production. Sources say that Tata is trying to decide on a 4 door coupe that is really a 5 door hatch, or the more "conventional" 4 door coupe.

I'll never have enough money to be able to own any M3, but didn't BMW dilute the M3 when they made it a sort of "trim package" in the late '90s-early '00s? I mean you had M3 in pretty much every body style, in Europe they may even have had an M3 estate.

BTW, BMW "jumped the shark" with the X6, then went for a cruise atop a great white by offering the X6 with the "M" treatment.

I find it somewhat ironic that for so long BMW was associated with sporty 2 door and 4 door sedans, now those same vehicles seem to be a small part of their lineup.

Tom Heath Webmaster
Oct. 22, 2010 1:32 p.m.

Wow. Way to href, sir. Are you trying to steal all our traffic or what?

I don't have a problem with manufacturers being involved in other market segments. If Porsche wants to build me an exciting FWD car or if BMW comes to market with a super practical M3 hatchback, I'll vote with my wallet.

Besides, as manufacturers are being forced to maintain average fuel economy standards (not just here, but in Europe too...) these premium sports and luxury brands will have to go downmarket just to share the fuel economy load. Don't hate the players, hate the game.

ZOO Dork
Oct. 22, 2010 2:57 p.m.

I'd totally rock an M3 hatch . . .

Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
Oct. 22, 2010 3:05 p.m.

I think BMW jumped the shark when they introduced I-Drive. I don't have a desire to own any new BMW as the electronic gremlins would be waiting to turn that fuzzy nice BMW into a monster as soon as they got wet....or old, or if they ate after midnight, or something....

I do find the 128i interesting as it is the least electronically overladen machine they make. All the others are time bombs. Shame that a company known for their engines and chassis are now slaves to electronics--- the one thing they can't ever seem to get right.

The MINI rocks though, and it is a BMW. I don't have a problem with them making more FWD --- hopefully simpler machines. They may be fun.

miatame Reader
Oct. 22, 2010 3:14 p.m.

I think the E90 M3 is a great looking M car, and do not understand why they'd replace it with a freak. It isn't a hatch or a sedan. It isn't horrible but just not pretty. I ask WHY.

Sucks because I want to get into an E90 M3 and with this this coming out I fear the sedan prices will stay high longer.

miatame Reader
Oct. 22, 2010 3:16 p.m.

Oh and slightly off topic but still important to me...

Have you seen where E36 M3 prices have fallen to?! I saw a clean 100k mile '99 M3 coupe (estoril blue even) under $10k!

My car isn't worth anything right now. I have a feeling they will creep back up again some day though.

pigeon Dork
Oct. 22, 2010 3:40 p.m.
Joe Gearin wrote: I think BMW jumped the shark when they introduced I-Drive. I don't have a desire to own any new BMW as the electronic gremlins would be waiting to turn that fuzzy nice BMW into a monster as soon as they got wet....or old, or if they ate after midnight, or something....

I didn't used to feel that way, but today is Day 33 that my car has been in the shop with iDrive germlins. I'm going to finally pick it up and cross my fingers that it's really fixed this time - 4th try is the charm, right?

Winston Reader
Oct. 22, 2010 3:44 p.m.
integraguy wrote: didn't BMW dilute the M3 when they made it a sort of "trim package" in the late '90s-early '00s? I mean you had M3 in pretty much every body style, in Europe they may even have had an M3 estate.

I think you're thinking of the M-sport /M-technic packages and add-ons, which were trim and suspension upgrades. "M3" was never a trim package on anything. Anything called M3 is special, and has always been backed up by a hot engine, performance suspension, and upgraded chassis (at least in spots) -- not just trim.

Shaun Reader
Oct. 22, 2010 4:20 p.m.

I wonder if fleet mileage is driving some of this. Keeping airflow attached helps significntly with the aero so making the chop to create a "sedan" profile costs MPG. Europe (goddamned socialists that they are) is pushing fuel efficiency real hard. The wind tunnel leads to this sort of shape. Just a thought.

itsatrap New Reader
Oct. 22, 2010 5:00 p.m.

I'm all for the hatchbacks making a comeback. I would love to see SAAB put a new 9-5 hatch on the market to compete with the BMW's and Audi's. Killing the hatch with the 9000 was their biggest mistake when they made with the 9-5 in my opinion. I just hope they manage to keep the hatchbacks less "Crossover" and more car.

You just can't beat the cargo capacity and ease of cargo entry in a nicely designed hatch.

Bababooey
Bababooey New Reader
Oct. 22, 2010 5:30 p.m.
pigeon wrote: I didn't used to feel that way, but today is Day 33 that my car has been in the shop with iDrive germlins. I'm going to finally pick it up and cross my fingers that it's really fixed this time - 4th try is the charm, right?

Are you dealing with the one is Rochester or Buffalo? I personally deal with Towne and have nothing but good experiences with them. BTW, they did recommend not buying a used 7 series when I bought it up to the service dept. Also know a tech and the Benz dealer. He said he'd only guy a C class or GLK unless you like being on a first name basis with the techs.

ignorant SuperDork
Oct. 22, 2010 6:11 p.m.
Joe Gearin wrote: I do find the 128i interesting as it is the least electronically overladen machine they make. All the others are time bombs. .

Electronics are unreliable so I made this computer out of 3 coconuts, a palm tree, and a pair of gingers undies..

btw.. I like the bmw hatch..

mad_machine SuperDork
Oct. 22, 2010 8:31 p.m.

Bmw and Porsche jumped the shark when they introduced the SUVs..

I kinda like the new fastback 3 series.. but I would never own one. Anything past the e46 is asking for electronic gremlins on the used market

pigeon Dork
Oct. 22, 2010 8:45 p.m.
Bababooey wrote:
pigeon wrote: I didn't used to feel that way, but today is Day 33 that my car has been in the shop with iDrive germlins. I'm going to finally pick it up and cross my fingers that it's really fixed this time - 4th try is the charm, right?

Are you dealing with the one is Rochester or Buffalo? I personally deal with Towne and have nothing but good experiences with them. BTW, they did recommend not buying a used 7 series when I bought it up to the service dept. Also know a tech and the Benz dealer. He said he'd only guy a C class or GLK unless you like being on a first name basis with the techs.

Rochester - it was Holtz when the car went in and West Herr when it came out. Still not fixed BTW. Yes, I'm now officially pissed. The car has been a rock mechanically, just a few recurring electrical issues mar the experience. Idrive has been repaired x4, comfort access door handles x3, trunk latch actuator x2. I am about to become one of those crazies in the "owns a 7 series out of warranty" category - 92.5k miles on it now, - CPO done at 100k. I plan to own it until at least 200k.

dankspeed New Reader
Oct. 22, 2010 9:05 p.m.
mad_machine wrote: Bmw and Porsche jumped the shark when they introduced the SUVs.. I kinda like the new fastback 3 series.. but I would never own one. Anything past the e46 is asking for electronic gremlins on the used market

Truth

irish44j HalfDork
Oct. 22, 2010 9:37 p.m.
Shaun wrote: I wonder if fleet mileage is driving some of this. Keeping airflow attached helps significntly with the aero so making the chop to create a "sedan" profile costs MPG. Europe (goddamned socialists that they are) is pushing fuel efficiency real hard. The wind tunnel leads to this sort of shape. Just a thought.

wouldn't it make more sense then to make a pure M3 sportwagon? After all, BMW does have 3-series wagons, Audi has sportwagons, Acura has the new TSX wagon coming out. A wagon is not only more aerodynamic, but also more practical than a hatchback design. And it would surely look better than that thing up there.....

Bababooey
Bababooey New Reader
Oct. 23, 2010 3:35 p.m.

In reply to pigeon:

I lost your email so I hope you read this. :)

Figures. My friend has a Land Rover and found Holtz trying to screw him on more than one occasion. Give Tom or Adam a call at Towne next time you've got an issue and tell them the film guy sent you. IMO, Buffalo has much better dealerships than Rochester. I've actually pulled my business out of the two big guys in Rochester because of issues with management.

Feedyurhed HalfDork
Oct. 23, 2010 9:02 p.m.
nderwater wrote: (aka shameless self promotion) Times are tough for carmakers. Sales volumes are down, profit margins are razor thin. In this environment it is critical that carmakers don't make any mistakes as they defend their place in the market... Which is why I'm so critical when I see my favorite auto brands making boneheaded decisions. Take BMW. For generations, BMW has taken pride in producing some of the best sport sedans on the planet. Their cars featured smooth, powerful engines, excellent balance and handling, and rear wheel drive. And from among these, the flagship M3 model offers Porsche 911-like performance and sophistocation, but with much more practicality and a lower price tag. The BMW M3 has become an automotive icon, the benchmark by which all other sports sedans are measured. Given that, today's news that the M3 sedan is to be replaced by an awkwardly styled five-door hatchback is stunning. If the M3 is so widely lauded, why on earth would BMW push it into a new market segment? Is it because Porsche is trying a similar move with its ugly five-door Panamera? This week BMW also confirmed its intention to begin selling entry-level, front wheel drive cars. Nevermind BMW's long history of RWD performance cars, or that BMW's MINI division already sells cars in this segment.  Pushing for profit has eclipsed common sense. BMW, Porsche, Lotus - Please don't turn your back on your heritage by entering market segments where you don't belong. Short term sales volume gains are not worth erasing what your companies stand for. Abandon what makes your cars unique and it is only a matter of time before buyers forget why your cars are any different than everything else on the road.

Well put and I couldn't agree more. The three you mentioned once literally defined their segments. What a change a few years make.

Teh E36 M3 HalfDork
Oct. 23, 2010 10:27 p.m.

"Wow. Way to href, sir. "

Total overload. Lay off and spend time explaining what you're talking about. I don't want to read 4 different websites to get the gist of your post.

On the subject: I agree with Gearin- making your cars slaves to electronics or the "i" generation takes the fun and soul out of them. You don't need FWD or X6M's to do that. This from a guy who has an iPhone and a mac.

Further on the subject: Auto manufacturers have to build vehicles that make profit in order to survive. Some ideas are misguided, but if it keeps Chevy in the Corvette business, BMW in the M3 business, or Toyota in the Supra business (whoops... my bad) then it is all worth it for enthusiasts.

integraguy Dork
Oct. 24, 2010 10:39 a.m.

I don't really have a problem with car companies expanding their market share, especially when it comes to trying to meet fuel economy requirements, but when Cadillac builds trucks and Porsche builds and sells more SUVs than sports cars...and is set to go into "cute ute" territory...my opinion/advice is to create a sub-brand for these vehicles that don't fit a car company's time worn brand image.

4cylndrfury SuperDork
Oct. 24, 2010 11:01 a.m.

The problem is that the sheeple want their utes...the missus and I fell victim...I just returned from Chicago in our Terrain, and I cant find a reason NOT to buy another small SUV. Its been a great car since day 1. We did have to have an A-arm bushing replaced (under warranty) for an irritating squeak that a <10k miles car shouldnt have had, but other than that, it continues to amaze. In the Smokey mountains with the winding roads it was great. On the long freeway drives it was great. In the congested city, it was great. They really are a great segment, and probably making a ton of money for car companies. Its only a good deal if its something you want.

The problem in general is that too few people want sports cars, and even fewer want brandy spankin new sports cars. Of the folks that can afford a brand new sports car, most (my guess) want the prestige that comes with that showroom fresh Ferrari, not the blistering speed. So what happens? car makers begin adding heated seats and ZOMFGBAZILLION cup holders so Douchey McStockmarket can hardpark at the country club. The purists who want a real sports car so they can actually wring it out on the track get left behind.

Its ok though...those companies may have had their 15 minutes, and now the board runs things (typically right into the ground), but thats not the end of the world. Eventually, there will be enough demand for no-nonsense, reasonable power, low optioned, fun to drive cars that either the big players will get their heads out of their tails and get back to their roots, or, more likely, new players will sprout once theres investment capital available, and we will get our stripper models back. the fact that the general has been selling us a base level sedan with a turbo and capable handling is a sign that there are shot-callers out their listening.

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