As BMW makes plans for Gran’s early demise, we ask what (if any) meaning there is to be derived from it all.
Holed beneath the waterline for some time now, the European MPV/Minivan market is fast approaching an ‘all hands to the lifeboats’ scenario, as market incumbents seek a means of escape from the cost implications of the sector’s sales implosion.
Until now, it has been the mainstream carmakers who have been for the most part wielding death’s scythe, but as market conditions deteriorate, even the more upmarket brands are starting to feel the unmistakable sensation of cold bent steel upon their napes.
Having hastened the mainstream MPV’s demise by their belated encroach a number of years ago, BMW and Mercedes now appear to be reconsidering the wisdom of their avarice, with the Bavarians actively suggesting that the best thing for Gran might be a nice little retirement home in a year or two’s time.
As reported very much en passant by Autocar last week, BMW’s Vice President of Product Management, Peter Henrick was quoted as saying that while both Active and Gran Tourer models had been successful in bringing new customers to the Vierzylinder, they were unlikely to be replaced once they completed their product cycles. In their wake, he said, BMW would look to transition existing customers to their crossover CUV offerings.
Henrick, an individual who clearly has a good deal to answer for in recent product strategy terms, also made the following rather staggering statement, alleging that these models are “not at the centre of what our brand today stands for.” It’s easy to ascertain that he has a background in marketing.
‘Not at the centre of what our brand today stands for’. Has there (since 1959 at least) been a point in time when a front wheel drive minivan in two sizes represented the centre of Munich-Milbertshofen’s brand aspirations? But leaving aside the sheer affront of his statement, we are faced with the cliff-face futility of the entire Active/ Gran Tourer exercise. All that brand-damage and for what?
Conversely, Henrick’s statement raises another question. What does BMW’s brand stand for in the year 2019? Because given that it once stood for this, we can safely deduce that it can just as rationally stand for anything else one might care to imagine.
All of which sounds like good news for BMW’s liberated product strategists, if not perhaps for those of us who once placed a premium on those brand values that BMW is now carelessly tossing aside.