BMW is not in danger of becoming the rich man's Buick -- the car that dad drives and the kids won't touch.
But to the German automaker's surprise, it's not on the shopping list of many buyers who can afford the marque.
BMW's longtime tag line -- the "Ultimate Driving Machine" -- is not driving sales to a lot of potential buyers.
So BMW's new "Company of Ideas" ad theme touts corporate independence, safety, fuel economy and all the features that the brand isn't used to selling, says Howard Mosher, executive vice president of operations at BMW of North America LLC. Mosher, 59, a former Rolls-Royce and Land Rover executive, took the No. 2 job at BMW of North America in May 2005.
BMW commissioned a study last year of potential buyers who consider vehicles in the segment in which the company competes -- vehicles ranging from about $30,000 to $100,000. About 75 percent of those polled said they wouldn't consider a BMW.
BMW is convinced that its marketing is the problem, not the brand's formula of luxury and performance. A new marketing campaign to lure reluctant buyers began in late spring.
BMW has a new advertising agency, GSD&M, of Austin, Texas. Last summer, BMW decided to review its account, and longtime agency Fallon McElligott of Minneapolis declined to participate.
Mosher says the reasons people didn't consider BMWs were both rational and emotional. Rational reasons included concerns about poor handling in snow for the rear-wheel-drive vehicles, he says.
"They don't seem to know we have (optional) all-wheel drive, so they think it doesn't drive well in snow," Mosher says.
BMW's performance image also sparked concerns about fuel economy and safety, Mosher says. BMW will tout its 30-mpg-plus vehicles, braking, stability control and other technologies, he says.
"You will see in our advertising that we attempt to address those specific issues very directly as opposed to ads that show BMWs driving fast or around a corner -- which is historically what we have always done," Mosher says.
One of the first print ads delivers the message "Safety isn't just ABS and DSC but also DNA," he says. The ad goes on to talk about how BMWs are designed with safety in mind.
Mosher says the second group of people not buying BMWs "simply say, 'BMW is not for me, I'm not a BMW type of person.' This goes, we think, a bit to the old stereotyping of BMW and who drives a BMW."
To lure this group, BMW needs to do a better job of explaining what the company is and why its vehicles are a good buy, Mosher says.
You may e-mail Diana T. Kurylko at [email protected]