Opinion: BMW identity seems to have been diluted of late

Where has BMW’s identity gone? Maybe it should look to MINI for inspiration.

I’ve always been a big fan of MINI, from the very first time I drove a pretty ropey original back in the eighties. There’s just something very cool, charming and, ultimately, fun about every MINI I’ve ever come across.

I’m also a big fan of what BMW has done with one of the greatest British car brands. I love the fact that it has stayed true to the style and character of the cars – if not the engineering ethos behind the original.

I know there are plenty of traditionalists who rightly point out that MINIs aren’t very mini any more. But try and make a MINI today that does what the Mini did way back when and you’ll struggle to make it legal.

The demands of legislators – but, more importantly, consumers – mean that MINI today has to be different. I still want that cool, charm and fun, but I want it in a package that’s built to BMW standards, that I can get in and out of easily (and so can the dog!) and that has all the latest technology – both luxury and safety – on board.

MINI has always been very good at listening, which is why I’m so excited by the future outlined in Johnny Burn’s exclusive story this week. Three new MINIs that, I reckon, are just what customers want.

BMW has also done a great job of Rolls-Royce, with the latest, excellent Ghost arriving in rather plush showrooms this week. Again, it has listened to customers and produced exactly what’s ordered.

Which brings me to BMW itself. And here the picture is slightly less clear. BMW was always the Ultimate Driving Machine, and it still builds cars that are brilliant to drive, but the purity around what the brand stands for seems to have been diluted of late.

Maybe that’s down to the proliferation of models, because for some, notably the X cars, being the ultimate driving machines doesn’t matter as much to owners. Many rival brands have always said they wanted to be like BMW. Now it seems BMW wants to be like the others.

Steve Fowler

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