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BMW M Performance Automobiles Add Confusing Twist To Luxury Car Lineup

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
January 17, 2012

BMW will be bringing out an all-new lineup of sporty automobiles at the Geneva Motor Show this spring that will see the automaker pushing the available space in its global showrooms to the absolute limit. The grouping of cars will wear the confusing moniker of "BMW M Performance Automobiles" and will ostensibly provide additional horsepower and handling above and beyond what is currently available with BMW's stock offerings without infringing on the to-the-limit reputation of the M brand.

If this sounds like a delicate balancing act, that's because it is. So far, BMW has been vague regarding the details of what models will be included in the BMW M Performance Automobiles push, but according to a report published by The Detroit Bureau, BMW president Friedrich Nitschke has stated that the goal is to provide more 'emotionality' without sacrificing the 'usability' that most BMW owners prize. This type of product planning, unfortunately, leads more frequently to compromised rather than sublime driving experiences.

BMW has certainly never been averse to providing non-M buyers with the opportunity to add an extra dose of power and a tighter suspension setup to their cars via carefully-selected options packages. In recent years, BMW 3 Series owners have been able to take advantage of the Performance Edition package (which turned up the boost on the BMW 335i) as well as the ZHP package which created a lightweight, ultra-nimble edition of the brand's volume seller that also featured more rev-friendly tweaks under the hood. Reach back even farther and vehicles like the M535i sedan and the M 635 CSi offered factory hot rod goodies under the skin without making available the full BMW M experience.

The decision to presumably break out these types of options packages and trim levels into their own product line marks a step in a different direction. BMW has even hinted that the BMW M Performance Automobiles stable might gain its own unique models, in effect creating a fourth tier for the company alongside the standard range cars and crossovers, the BMW M division and the company's nascent electric efforts. Is there really space in the lineup for a 5 Series or 3 Series that is a little bit faster than stock but not hardcore enough to warrant full M status? Will buyers be interested in investigating what M Performance has to offer or will its presence simply be another confusing aspect of ordering a new luxury car from a company whose tendrils now reach far and wide across the Euro spectrum?

These questions won't be answered until the BMW M Performance Automobiles models hit the actual sales floor. Given the risk of trampling on the goodwill amongst performance enthusiasts engendered by the M division - as well as the threat of alienating buyers incapable of detecting significant differences between presumably pricy M Performance models and their more affordable standard cousins - BMW could be facing down accusations of 'badge engineering' that have never before been leveled at the German automaker.


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