Brand Dilution At Its Finest: BMW's New "M" Bicycle

Today, BMW announced that, beginning in June, customers can order its new “M” bicycle.  The bike, which you can see here, courtesy of Autoblog, is nice enough on the eyes.  But one wonders whether BMW has finally gone too far, indiscriminately slapping its “M” brand on something that is less than true to the “M” heritage.

For those of you who are not BMW fanatics (and I must confess that I AM such a fanatic), the “M” moniker has traditionally been reserved for cars emanating from BMW’s “Motorsports” division.  These cars, which are meant to be race-inspired versions of BMW’s already excellent road vehicles, are touted as the pinnacle of BMW performance, allowing everyday Joes like you and me the opportunity to feel what it might be like to drive a racecar – albeit on the way to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk.  “M” badged cars deliver premium performance at a premium price, and BMW fanatics eat them up like candy.  Indeed, they are the most revered models BMW makes.  You can peruse the glory that is the M3 – a “proper” rear-wheel drive “M” car – right here.  Warning:  you may find yourself salivating on your keyboard.

Lately though, BMW has been chipping away at its “M” brand.  The first blow was BMW’s decision to forsake normally-aspirated engines for forced-induction or “turbo” models, in part to help the automaker comply with the government’s C.A.F.E. standards and the rising cost of fuel.  This minor modification caused a major uproar on BMW message boards across the interwebs.  Then, last year, BMW released “M” versions of its “sport activity vehicles” (gussied-up SUV’s, if you’re scratching your head ), the X5M and the X6M.  Granted, these monsters each boast BMW’s ridiculous 555hp twin-turbo V8 engine which lays down a relentless 500ftlb of torque, meaning that you’ll still go stupid-fast despite the fact that these things weigh north of 2 ½ tons each. 

But they’re trucks.  TRUCKS, I tell you!  With 4-wheel drive!!  Ye gods…  You can imagine how ruffled the BMW enthusiasts got when these suckers dropped.

And then today we get the word of BMW’s “M” bicycle.  Yes, that’s right.  Not a motorcycle (which BMW also produces to great acclaim), but a bike.  Something your kid can ride.  There is no engine in this thing – not even a turbo-charged one.  The machine is one-wheel drive.  I’m sure BMW will try to massage these oversights by suggesting that an X5M owner can strap one of these things onto the optional bike rack you can option onto your M-truck, but isn’t this going a bit too far?

Perhaps the “M” brand has enough cache and history that doing something like this won’t damage it.  Perhaps people will perceive this move by BMW as nothing more than a joke, a little marketing ploy, or a way to introduce “new customers” to the M division (I’ve done that for my kids without the need for this 2-wheeled abomination, thank you very much).  But decisions like these, even those by a company as brand-savvy as BMW, can do nothing but dilute what is one of the most revered brands in the automotive industry.  When you start to strip away the elements that make a brand what it is, gradually and over time, you are left with a mere shell.  And that “shell” becomes less attractive, less desirable, and less valuable.  Brands like the “M” brand are too precious to mess with, and sadly, BMW just doesn’t seem to care.

Then again, maybe I’m just overreacting to this.  What do you think…? mhurst@kmklaw.com

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