Today Gabe over at announced his new BMW-oriented site which I presume hopes to do for the BMW what he, and his helpers, have done for the MINI. I say presume because I have absolutely no interest in looking at the site. Nothing against the site but I’ve never understood the affection many MINI owners have for BMW.

To me, BMW is the antithesis of MINI. It is based on elitism, money and the ego that come from both. Yes, I agree that MINI owners are elitist (and you sure need to have money to buy one!) but it’s based on our affection for the brand, a desire for others to see the purity of experience that driving a MINI brings.

When I get my MINI serviced, you can easily tell the owners apart; it’s so stereotypical as to be funny. The MINI owners dressed casually, usually typing on Mac Books, often smiling. BMW owner dressed “to impress”, bluetooth headset stuck to head, blackberry out desperately trying to look important. When a MINI owner sees another, there’s almost always a conversation. Approach the BMW owner, probably get knifed (with a Gucci knife, of course!).

Yes, this is a little over the top but the underlying theme is true. I just don’t see the connection between the brands beyond the obvious one of birth.

12 thoughts on “MINI and BMW”

  1. Having owned 2 BMW’s in the last 20 years I can’t totally agree or disagree with all you said.

    My wife and I enjoyed our BMWs and owned them both well into the 100,000 mile range with few problems. We now own an A4, but only because we were treated so poorly by our local dealer, I guess we should have bought some Gucci clothing, and the nearest non US auto maker was an Audi dealership in Pasadena.

    I will say that your assessment of the two groups general attire is pretty right on but I think the MINI owner is generally younger so that might be a reason. I don’t type on a Mac Book but I do now “tap” and fiddle on my iPhone.

    As far as the bluetooth and Blackberry’s go, seems most who drive BMWs are either business owners and or people who work high end jobs that require a different dress code and are usually a more affluent people. It’s not like most of them are going to work the counter at Mickey Ds. As far as the headset goes, aren’t we Californians supposed to used a non handheld phone device while driving in CA? It’s irritating as hell when any idiot stands there and blabs his business so all can hear no matter where you are.

    I, also, have no real need to look at Gabe’s new website other than to see what he came up with but if he ever has “Audi///File” I might be tempted.

    Seems you don’t think a BMW is worth the cost. I found our BMWs to better than many vehicles I have owned over the last 45 years. My MINI’ have had there fair share of problems! My ’02 was a joke and this ’04 has been pretty good but a blown motor at 22,000 was not good although fixed by the dealer, but not without some major grumbling on their part. We sold each BMW for a decent price and have heard they both are still running quite well. My Toyota 4Runner was the best, bar none, vehicle I have ever owned, period!

    I do believe, unlike the MCS, the the stock BMW, 3 or 5 series, is only an OK road car unless you buy a “M” series, but even an average mid range BMW beats the socks of most USA, Asian, and euro “Road” cars. I also feel that the Cooper is a mediocre car as compared to the “S”. My daughter owns a Cooper. I drove it to Ca from Boston. Other that a nicer ride, better mpg and quieter tires, I wouldn’t trade my “S” for that car or even want to own one if that was all they sold. I also don’t see me owning an FUGLY R56 but I’ve learned to never say never.

    That’s my 2 cents, I hope I didn’t offend. 😉

  2. Of course not, rb, always appreciate you leaving me a comment. You are right that I would never buy a BMW, as it is the MINI is far too expensive in terms of overall cost ($300 for an oil change, come on) so I would never “trade up”. The Audi, on the other hand, is something I could go for. Before I bought my ’02 MCS I was wanting an A4, nice cars, I think.

  3. Margaret drives a BMW, and she’s no suited bluetooth wearing exec (though she does dress nicer than me, and her phone does bluetooth to the car when she remembers to turn it on!)
    She bought the BMW because it was a good hardtop convertible, and she likes driving it.

    For me, it’s a fine car (though surprised how rattly the hardtop is for a $50K car) – but it hasn’t made me interested in BMW instead of MINI.

    At BMW of Peabody I know two folks (because of MINI of Peabody) so my visits there are atypical … but I have no memory of the person that sold Margaret her BMW, while I know Joel who sold my car and say “hi” whenever I’m at MINI. The two dealerships are definitely very different places …

  4. This late 2005 A4 1.8 Quattro has been nearly perfect, nearly. We did have a run of bad (2) starter coils, I think they called them. Other than that, headlights that seem to keep moisture inside them, seems only hers, and a minor turbo lag, now fixed it’s been spot on.

    We went to Telluride a few years ago, I was worried about the small 4 cylinder not being up to the task. It did very well. I had to make a decision to be behind some slow moving 18 wheelers passing each other on a major grade near Telluride. I thought to myself I don’t think there’s enough power to make the move but gave it a shot, as we had a decent run up to them, in the MCS I wouldn’t have had a moment of indecision, I dropped it down a gear and wham it just responded, not like the MCS but pretty decently, with two car lengths to spare. My wife, normally a very uneasy passenger, was very impressed. She said I thought you were crazy to try.

    She, my wife got the Sport package, not the “S” package which runs a ton more, with 5 speed manual… out the door $38,000. I was so impressed with the sportmatic trans that I suggested we buy that one, we normally never consider automatics, it was very responsive.

    As far as attire, it’s just us old Hippies driving it. I call it the “Das Boot”. The only close dealer is a really high end dealer, Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley and so on, talk about bluetooth and Gucci up the ying yang. Even in your best “Sunday go to meet’n” clothing your a slacker there. I will say the people at the dealership are beyond nice, never condescending. Last time there for a maintenance thing they gave us a ’07 Merc to drive.

    I love to walk around the showroom and dream of some of the cars they have for sale. One of my neighbors recently bought a 911 Carrera there. UNBELIEVABLE acceleration, I nearly wet myself!


  5. Interesting discussion. However I think your history with certain kinds of BMW owners have really clouded your view of the brand and product. Granted, I completely understand. Most BMW owners are tools or just clueless corporate ladder climbers leasing something they can’t afford to buy. I get disgusted on a daily basis seeing who is behind the wheel of convertible M3s.

    But the thing you’re missing is that the BMW brand is steeped in the enthusiast tradition much more so than even the new MINI. For enthusiasts it has nothing to do with a status symbol. Its all about certain qualities of performance, design and engineering that are synonymous with most of BMW’s products and match up extraordinarily well with what many enthusiasts demand. In fact it’s got a motorsport history that’s unsurpassed by only two other automakers out there and a national club that is the largest and most active in the US. Because of all of this and its history, the brand has a rare (for this day in age) authenticity. And when the cars are optioned correctly (I.E. – M or sport package with a manual) their products have this too.

    A couple little known facts that are worth a thought… the average age of MINI owners is higher than BMW owners. And a BMW M3 owner’s average age is actually one of the lowest of any BMW product.

  6. Josh Wardell & I visited BMW of Peabody today to see Vinny, who until this week worked at MINI of Peabody. Same ownership but VERY different dealerships!
    Strange to see Vinny dressed in suit and tie.
    Strange how quiet it was in there, gave off very serious vibes.
    Strange to feel out of place (even though Margaret & I bought a $50K car there last year)

    BMW targets – especially with their higher than 3 series – buyers who are very different to the average MINI community member; yes, there are BMW/MINI owners but I bet they are not the norm, and maybe they’re just as uncomfortable in the BMW location.

    Vinny told us something interesting too … following the success of MINI of Peabody events, the ownership wanted to try similar things at their other dealerships. He said they tried a new vehicle launch event at Acura (like the R56 event) … nobody showed up! The BMW operation doesn’t do events – they’re hooked in with BMWCCA but a track day is nothing like a fun day (though it might be fun for some folks)

  7. PS … Gabe, the “entry point” for the enthusiast you describe, buying in to presumably at least a 335 and preferably an “M” vehicle, is way higher than the entry point for a MINI – and we all know the Cooper has almost all the fun handling characteristics … there are people that can afford $22K but not $50K!

  8. Wow, I’m impressed Gabe commenting on your blog.

    I think Gabe makes some good points. I was surprised that BMW owners tend to be younger than MINI owners. Maybe it’s because of us, and I hate this term, “Baby Boomers”, Gad, are having a fling at some fun after having our noses to the grindstone for so long and can’t really afford a Boyd Coddington? I’d be interested in seeing a graph with MINI owners ages and which MINI we choose.

  9. I think you’re right on RB. Oh and for the record someone sent me a link 🙂

    Ian – totally agree that it’s a different entry point and (for better or worse) the youngish person buying in at the price can be of a different ilk. Put it this way… by and large I would much rather be stuck in an elevator with the typical MINI owner than a typical BMW owner.

    That said there are still plenty BMW enthusiasts out there with the mind-set that I see in rabid MINI fans. They are just a smaller % of the BMW market since BMW now sells so many cars with AWD, automatics and X’s in the name.

  10. Gabe, you mean you don’t have me at the top of your RSS feed aggregator! Oh, the pain!!! 🙂 Actually, I can’t get over having 10 comments on a posting (even if 2 of them are mine!).

    Yes, I think I definitely have a bad impression thanks to close up interaction with some classic tosser owners. Interesting, and good, point about the heritage of the BMW marque, hadn’t really stopped to think about that.

  11. Yup, 11+ posts, more than Twisty sees sometimes for 5 posts. Very kool!

    Does Gabe mean “right on” about him posting here or the Baby Boomer part? I so confused. 😉

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