Over the past several weeks we have seen, heardand talked a great deal about these newer more efficient powertrains from BMW. There is the two-mode (can be run on electric for 1.6 miles) Active Hybrid X6, the Active Hybrid 7 which runs in gas + electric mode only and of course the 335d and X5 xDrive35d Advanced Diesels featuring a 3.0l with sequential turbos.
BMWNA has strategically taken a performance route with these offerings. The X6 in hybrid form is the most powerful on the planet and the 7 series may very well be the fastest hybrid production car. The current Advanced Diesels provide performance and efficiency (as well as decreased emissions) that other manufacturers do not offer. In these terms BMW is without competition.
We have continuously questioned whether the performance route was the “right ” one to take. It was a decision that was made in a different economy and for a market that may not have included those seeking the world ‘s most efficient vehicle. Sure it would be great to have smaller more efficient motors brought to the market but then do we lose the “Ultimate Driving Machine ” and inherit the “Ultimate Fuel Miser “?
I asked myself after listening again to our last podcast, if what I had said about these vehicles was the message I wanted to send. My conclusion was that it may not have been as clear as it could have been and I hope here to expand upon the views I started.
While the diesels have not sold in large numbers, they still have been an overwhelming success in other ways (and rightfully so). The 335d will get you from 0-60 in under 6 seconds and get you over 36 mpg on the highway- that is something special. The X5 in diesel guise will move that mass effortlessly and return just under 30 mpg on the highway if you are easy with the right foot. They are helping rid the US consumer of the bad taste diesel left decades ago, and that is not an easy feat.
In terms of image; you get a haircut and dress your best for an interview or meeting your significant other ‘s family for the first time- first impressions go a long way and you want your best foot forward. The Advanced Diesels are not all that different. BMW(NA) wanted to show that diesels could be powerful, efficient and luxurious. They have definitely achieved this.While high sales numbers may be important to some, no one knows what BMW ‘s projected numbers were, so the vehicles could very well be a sales success. All future BMW diesel models (and there are more coming) will initially be viewed by consumers to have similar characteristics to these offerings.These current cars are the “halos ” or cream of the crop, and the rest will fall into line.
As I have asked (a million times), “Why does diesel always need to be about savings and efficiency? “- It doesn ‘t and shouldn ‘t. If BMW offered a lower displacement/ higher efficiency car initially to the market it would be compared with the VW Jetta TDI and why should that be? A Jetta and a 3 series share different places in the market and really should NEVER be mentioned in the same breath. You add in that “diesel ” word and they instantly become competitors and discussed in terms of efficiency, there is a lot more to it than that.
The soon to launch hybrids are in a similar boat. What perspective buyer would not want a 7 series with the performance of the 12 cylinder at a cheaper price point and 15% improvement in efficiency? None that I can think of!Do you want to be driving a BMW version of a Prius? Is efficiency all that makes a hybrid a hybrid- or can a hybrid be a luxury vehicle with the traditional drive and performance you expect from the brand? These questions help shape one ‘s opinion of hybrids. BMW is making you think about all of that now,as no manufacturer has ever offered anything with this level of performance from a hybrid. It is a different concept and a different market, we are talking luxury, performance and efficiency.Like the diesels these vehicles are the outliers of more things to come.
From a volume perspective, the price-points of these more efficient offerings will not be huge sellers in terms of numbers. These are not the vehicles the famous “Joe the plumber ” will be buying, but isn ‘t that part of what BMW is all about? They are vehicles people strive to buy, as they are just out of reach for most. As BMW has learned, volume is not what makes something a success, it is the product line that makes success.
BMW has touted Efficient Dynamics as their mantra, and dynamics is their own variable that others can not emulate so why drop that now…