The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 February 2008

Who's buying the Bimmers?

Apparently a very narrow demographic:

While BMW still aims for the luxury car market stratosphere (the 7-Series and Rolls, neither of which amount to much) and the lower reaches (the MINI line, which is still premium priced for what it is), the propeller badge might as well be a rifle sight. And yuppies are in the crosshairs.

No car is more identified with a particular rung of the corporate ladder than BMW. Nothing says "mover and shaker" more than an alphabet soup 3 or 5 in a reserved parking place. We're not talking about the top slot; the truly highly-placed drive something with more presence. We're looking at the upper middle execs whose cars must stand out from the "ordinary" (cynics might say "practical") machines driven by the company's lesser lights.

Overpaying is part of the cachet, "I'm going places, and I don't need to worry about what it cost." Sure, Bimmer's rep for speed and handling is a nice seasoning. But truth be told, the sort of person who regularly buys/leases a BMW probably doesn't have the time to go joyriding. The exact position of this "Bimmer spot" within the corporate hierarchy varies from country to country, but the template remains the same: Urban Professional on the Move.

Which of course lets me out, since I'm not going anywhere, in several senses of the word. And obviously not everyone sporting a roundel is yuppie scum. (I know better.)

Still, I have to wonder if there's a bubble involved, and maybe there is:

If there is a significant worldwide economic downturn, existing and potential BMW buyers may not make enough bonus — or simply feel "safe" enough — to take on a new car after three to five years. Should the corporate ax man's blade swing through the lower executive level with special violence, BMW sales will suffer widespread decapitation.

That's the problem with near luxury products. They're not expensive enough to rise about the fray, and they're not cheap enough to be seen as a necessity, or fly under the corporate accountant’s radar.

We don't have a lot of high-zoot vehicles where I work, anyway; mostly it's trucks and sport-utilities. Then again, damn few of us are overpaid. (Some of us — I have reference to, um, me — don't even come close to it.)

Posted at 7:58 AM to Driver's Seat


I briefly worked in the automobile repo industry in ATL back in the Autumn of '87. A disproportionate number of Bimmers and Audis needed to be returned to their rightful owners.

Posted by: Tam at 9:24 AM on 6 February 2008