BMW "The Ultimate Driving Machine" has successfully marched to the top of the luxury car sales chart over the past few years, surpassing their long time competitor Mercedes-Benz. However, the brand is beginning to undermine this success in a manner that could be akin to Audi's downfall several decades ago.
Audi, a division of VW, in the early 80s decided to fight claims of "unintended acceleration" made by owners of its vehicles in one of the most famous contemporary auto brand missteps every recorded. The damage was so great the brand nearly disappeared for two decades. Now, Audi, has a sculpted both new cars and a new vision and I believe they learned their lesson the hard way.
BMW has not done anything so bold or notable to many, yet. They are however eroding their loyal customer based in more insidious ways.
My own story is a case in point.
I am a very long time BMW loyalist. Having only owned this brand of car for nearly 35 years. I say that is loyalty. I have been a car club member for at least half those years or more. I have convinced countless numbers of friends and family to buy this brand. So what have they done? To squeeze as much profit out of their cars as possible despite the high price tags (and high margins) they are cutting corners, reducing quality and producing vehicles that start falling apart in half the time of BMWs built a mere 10 years ago. Given the vast majority of BMW buyers (luxury car buyers in general) lease their cars for 3 years, and in the case of BMW, have a four year or 50,000 bumper to bumper warranty (which ever comes first) included in the purchase price, the pain from lower quality product is virtually nill.
Unfortunately, if you keep your vehicle a bit longer than the warranty period REGARDLESS OF MILEAGE (and in my case it was 20,000 on a five year old X5) you have to pay out of pocket for various problems and defects, and you quickly see the problem at hand.
So many things have gone wrong with this vehicle but my dealer isn't surprised. Bushings that were protected with covers a few years back are now left open to the elements and disintegrate quickly. Door handles (essential for getting in and out of the car) are made of plastics that disintegrate from people using them, even not that often. Engines malfunction after 20,000 miles inexplicably. Electrical systems freak out if the car is driven a little harder than just to the grocery store and back.
Actively fighting with both the dealer and BMWNA...and not having use of the vehicle on too many occasions to note, did get some relief. BMWNA did pay for some of these repairs, but the weeks of back and forth were exhausting and anger producing. The lip service from the manufacturer is well studied and presented by staffers apparently specially trained to handle such unhappy consumers. BMW even uses an email account called ironically, "bmwcares". So much effort to stop the most ardent of consumer advocate BMW owners, instead of just building long lasting cars and/or helping vehicle owners more quickly and happily. But alas it is always about profit not about customer satisfaction.
Now dear reader you could say that maybe my car is a lemon and should be "bought back" (in BMW language) by the manufacturer. Well, BMWNA says there is nothing wrong with the car despite the fact that dealer experience proves otherwise...that the brand itself is cheapening the way it builds cars and if you keep your car a while, be in store for some incredibly expensive repairs...even if the car has very very low mileage. Kinda like a ticking timebomb once warranty period is over.
I have spent some time researching this matter and reaching out to other owners, and I am clearly not alone. Most either pay for the ridiculous repairs or dump the cars with fear that holding on to them too long will be crazy expensive. But again, since the vast majority (over 85 %) of luxury car buyers lease, they don't experience this issue and BMW is banking on this.
In my case after 35 years I think I am done with this brand and the manufacturer offered me a token sorry to see you leave $1,000 off a $90,000 replacement vehicle. Ya that means a whole lot to me.
Watching out for you everyday.