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BMW the Way of the Bean Counters

Former BMW exec Bob Lutz thinks the transformation of the BMW brand may be a negative for fans, but a positive for its bottom line.

Dear Bob,

Do you think BMW is going the way of the bean counters nowadays with the introduction of the front-wheel-drive 2-series and soon-to-be-released 1-series?

BMW has ceased to be a company designing responsive, sporting cars for enthusiasts. It has gone mainstream, which, from a shareholder’s perspective, has been a good move. The brand is greatly respected, and BMW earned that respect. Most BMW buyers today pay a monthly lease and have no idea why they bought the brand, other than that it enjoys instant recognition and respect among the owner’s peers. Taut ride, superb handling, sharp steering, and symphonic-quality engine sound have mostly fallen by the wayside; today’s BMW customer neither notices nor cares. Front-wheel drive, minivans, small pickups—all toxic to the original owner base—are possible and will/would sell just fine.

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