So what’s the “secret sauce,” of what a BMW—any BMW—is? That’s a question answered by BMW North America vice president of Marketing and Product Strategy, Jack Pitney. And while there are many nuances to the real answer, it essentially comes down to three key things:
- Identity. It is about understanding what a BMW is. “We are a company driven by engineers,” Pitney said. And as such, they are focused on improving their products when they produce a new one or improve an existing one such that there is not necessarily a “hit” in the market—which can sometimes be nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan—but a product that has a gradually building curve that is sustainable. A case of this improvement is the 2011 528i sedan, which with a base price of $45,425 (including $875 destination and handling) is $1,400 less than the 2010 model, despite the fact that there are measurable improvements, such its 3.0-liter inline six producing 240 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque, which are improvements of 10 and 30, respectively. One key way of reducing costs while improving the product: engineering the 7 Series and the 5 Series together such that there is a sharing of approximately 70% of the components.
- Independence. Pitney said this is “mindset and reality.” Yes, it is a standalone company. And while it has MINI and Rolls-Royce under its umbrella, BMW has a cadre of people who are focused on BMW. He said that the independence gives them “great flexibility to do things, like making the investment in the Spartanburg [South Carolina] plant.” Opened in 1994, the plant was the first non-domestic luxury brand to build a plant in the U.S.
- Ambition. They’re interested in growth, but they’re not, he stated, interested in some sort of market homogeneity: “We don’t want to be for everyone.” Pitney explained that it is about picking their spots within the market, not trying to cover it. “We won’t have a pickup truck,” he joked. Yet they will have electric vehicles, including the forthcoming ActiveE and the MegaCity, with the former coming next year and the latter by “mid-decade.” He insisted of these cars, like any with the roundel on the front, “In the end, they all drive like BMWs.”