DownsideUpDesign

Musings of an Aussie design strategist gone North

It’s not a sedan, it’s not an SUV, it’s not an estate…it’s a hatchback!

serie5conceptgt7-498x332

It’s out! BMW’s new Progressive Activity Sedan (also known as the 5 Series GT or Gran Turismo) was revealed in a private view last night and the folks over at BMWBlog got the scoop. You might remember this as the car, the launch video of which I lampooned last week for spending three minutes saying the car wasn’t an MPV. And it’s not. It’s something almost as poisonous to the premium buyer: a hatchback.

 To be honest, its mix of Concpet CS, new 7 Series and and an immensely long wheelbase don’t upset me as much as I thought it would. You could certainly never argue that the thing lacks presence and the double opening hatch is an interesting if unoriginal idea. It did strike me that the angle of access, combined with the intrusion of the open lid, makes me think it will be a little awkward to use. At this point it seems that the similar system found on Skoda’s Superb is better resolved and more useful.

And there in lies the problem, this car counts only the Skoda Superb as a typological brother, hardly the company you want to keep if you’re BMW. The PAS is trying to be a premium hatchback and the last “premium” hatch I can remember…oh, hang on, I can’t. “Aha!” you say, “therein lies the secret to BMW’s success! Nobody has done this before!” Well they have.

Opel/Vauxhall used to produce the Signum, a similarly long-wheelbased hatch which was also designed to offer the difference between “economy and first class” (although in their case it was probably the difference between Air Congo and premium economy) and Skoda produces the aforementioned Superb (which is, actually, pretty superb for the money). However, neither of these cars will ever compete with the likes of E-Classes, A6s and A7s and their brands make sure of that. BMW is going in to battle in one of the most conservative market sectors out there and I’m not convinced people will be seduced out of their premium SUVs, sedans and wagons by an expensive rep-mobile.

Just picture this thing on the school run, driven by a yummy mummy who’s propped it on the kerb outside the prep school…

I’m not saying that a product type can’t turn premium overnight. The original Range Rover did it. But it was a able to do so because Land Rover and the types of vehicle they produced had always been associated with a certain class in English society, creating a strong aspirational pull. BMW might have the upper middle class pulling power, but hatchbacks have never been associated with aristocracy or celebrity, only with Ron the sales manager pounding the M25…

Head on over to BMWBlog to see more pics.

[Image and Source: BMWBlog]

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Filed under: Branding, Car, Design, Design Strategy, Premium, Uncategorized, , , , , ,

It’s not a sedan, it’s not an SUV, it’s not an estate…it’s a damn MPV

And the sooner BMW comes clean about this, the better for all concerned!

This video is 3 minutes and 38 seconds of pure marketing hell, cheesy voiceover and all, because the folks from Munich can’t bring themselves to call their Progressive Activity Sedan an MPV.

There is even a point at 1:28 where Mr. Cheesevoice says “…hmmm, so I’m immediately reminded of…” and I said out loud “an MPV” but our friend goes on to say “…exactly, the difference between economy and first class”! I wanted to scream! Just repeat after me assorted Bangles and Hooydonks: “MPV, it’s as easy as 1-2-3!” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Advertising, Car, Design, , , ,

Brand Capital and How Not to Spend It

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Over the last decade I’ve noticed an increasing number of brands willing to cash in on their previously unimpeachable images in the chase for bigger margins.

Sloppy strategies and even sloppier products have dealt manifold blows to companies like Mercedes-Benz (1st gen. A-Class, R-Class and Maybach), Porsche (Cayenne) and BMW (X6, X5 & 6Ms and 5 Series GT). For now, these brands can manage it. Decades of superb, focussed products have established strong brand perceptions that will take a few cheap hits (although I’d argue that Mercedes is really starting to try the patience of even the mainstream car nut with products like the new E-Class).

There are other brands, however, that can’t afford to play so loose and free with their brand capital and Aston Martin is a prime example. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Adventures in Brand Extension, Branding, Car, Car Culture, Design, Design Strategy, Eco, Premium, Sustainability, Things I Hate, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About DownsideUpDesign

I'm Drew Smith and I'm a freelance design strategist and journalist for the automotive industry. DownsideUpDesign is a place for me to collect stuff that I like, often love and sometimes hate for safe keeping. Get in touch at downsideupdesigner (at) me (dot) com or tweet me (@drewpasmith) to rant, contribute or collaborate!

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© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.