Just in case you needed further proof that corporate executives are completely out of touch with consumers who buy their products, fast forward to about 0:36 in the video below. Speaking through a translator, BMW’s M Division head, Dr. Kay Segler, explains that the 1 Series M is BMW’s “offer(ing) for the young enthusiast, which we need to cater for, because they would love to have something for which they can afford.” Just in case you missed the news, the 1 Series M will have a starting price, sans accessories, of $47,010. That’s not what I’d call affordable, because even in my days of pulling down respectable money in corporate America, a $47k car was out of my reach. If I didn’t have a mortgage to pay and leased the car instead of buying it, maybe the numbers would have been more reasonable. Maybe Dr. Segler is targeting a specific demographic with the M1; young, employed professionals who still live at home and have no ambition for a place of their own. That would explain the limited production of the 1 Series M, at least.
As for the rest of the video, it’s always entertaining to watch a division head talk you through one of their products. Call me weird, but I’ve never purchased a car because of the number of tailpipes it had, nor would I call “Valencia Orange” my first choice of colors. Dr. Segler’s “buy the stripped version” message probably won’t trickle down to dealers, as I don’t recall ever seeing a BMW on the lot that wasn’t loaded with accessories and options. The audio stops at about 2:50, but the video tour continues, so it’s worth watching until the end.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the car and I wish it were within my means. I’d even be tempted to take a gamble on the problem-plagued N54 motor used in the 1 Series M. What BMW should have built is a 1 Series M that was truly affordable and aimed at the young enthusiast. Make cloth seats standard, and eliminate power locks and power windows. Make the A/C manual, and include only a cheap radio. Forget the N54 motor, and resurrect the S54 3.2 liter inline six used in the E46 M3 (which produced 343 horsepower, virtually identical to the N54). Build as many as customers want to buy, and sell them at an entry level price to set your hook in the customer for life, even if it means selling the car at a very low margin. The new Mustang GT, well equipped, sells for $35,000, so use that as a benchmark.
Sadly, the 1 Series M is destined to become just another collector car, sold at ridiculous dealer markups to customers buying it for investment purposes, not as a daily driver. The few young enthusiasts who will be able to afford it probably come from family money anyway, so why not pony up a few more dollars for the M3? For a car that had so much potential, I’m afraid the 1 Series M missed the target entirely.