I was very interested in your cover story on the “Baby Beamer” (MW last week). The article makes some interesting points about the trouble BMW may face in marketing the new Mini.
We are all aware of the cultural rivalry between the UK and Germany. Every football game between our two nations always results in headlines about “the Jerries” or fans chanting “two world wars and one world cup”. Looking at the reality however, German fans should be shouting, “Three world cups, one major car company, 7,500 jobs and your most famous car marque.”
The main problem BMW faces with the Mini launch, and its ambitious target of selling 20,000 cars in the UK by the end of the year, is the UK’s dislike of BMW. Sure, the rich toffs among us might still be buying Three-series BMWs, but the Mini is aimed at a different market. These people are the same group who sympathise with the average Longbridge worker, now afraid for his job after the Rover sell-off.
Having worked in the car trade – spare parts – I can sympathise with Longbridge workers, but I can also understand why BMW sold the company. It is a simple matter of quality. I have been told that the average number of faults on a BMW as it rolls off the production line is three and that the average number of faults on a Rover is 17. If this is the case, in terms of extra man-hours a Rover is a lot more costly to produce, and I can’t really blame BMW for the sale.
But the way BMW handled the sell-off has created so much bad feeling toward the company that it will have a hard time breaking the stigma surrounding it when launching the Mini. And the question should be asked: who will buy a car that is supposed to be the epitome of British cool, but made by the Germans?