Why BMW Should Be More Like Subaru

BMW purists will naturally hate the title. “Why should BMW be more like Subaru???” To start, Subaru now sells more cars in the U.S. than BMW. They also sell more cars than VW and Mazda. Subaru will tell you it’s because they have the right product, class-leading safety and loyal customers.

But, doesn’t BMW have those traits as well?subaru grc

BMW has a good product, good safety…I think it’s the loyal customers that are missing. In the past, BMW used to win a lot of races. They were The Ultimate Driving Machine. But, lately BMW has been  supporting golf and yachting instead of motor sports.

Subaru on the other hand has embraced the enthusiast. “Since introducing the WRX stateside in 2001, Subaru has gained some cool points with street/rally racers.” points out Branden Peters with Askmen.com.

While Subaru has been racking up “cool points,” BMW has lost them by slapping the “M” logo on every model, diluting the M brand. The latest M235 has 16 M badges on it and isn’t anywhere close to a true M model (Jason Camissa counted them).

Even worse is that the most recent M3 is scoring lowering than it’s competitors in performance, 3rd actually, and the U.S. race teams like Fall Line Motorsport are still racing the previous models.

BMW Z4 racecar

In contrast to BMW’s Z4 racecar in the Tudor series (pictured above), Subaru races what they sell. “They probably have the closest connection between what they race and what they sell,” says legendary pro skater and recent Subaru racing team member Bucky Lasek. “Many other brands race, but their race vehicle is so different from the car they sell. With Subaru, especially in rallying, the car they sell is so close to the car you race. It’s just a more authentic connection.”

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The same is true in drifting. Michael Essa won the Formula D Championship in an E46 M3 and rumor has it that BMW sent him a letter asking him to take off his BMW logos and M badges as they didn’t want to be associated with the sport. He now races a Camaro.

Subaru has a major presence in drifting and more drivers are switching to Subaru. Dai Yoshihara used to compete in a Nissan before switching to the Subaru BRZ in 2014. “We thought the BRZ can be more competitive with more aftermarket support available.”

I’ve always said that BMW should do more to embrace the driving enthusiast. I think the enthusiasts are more important to their brand than the corporate suits realize. The company still makes a ton of money, but it is interesting when brands like Subaru now outsell BMW. It’s not like Subaru expanded significantly over BMW by introducing new models to customer segments. Sure they have the BRZ and the Crosstrek, but BMW unleashed what feels like dozens of new models from the 2 Series to the GT cars to the 4 series and even a smaller X model, the X1. And yet, Subaru still outsells them. 

BMW makes great cars. If I needed to drive cross country to California or go on a road trip with friends I would choose a BMW. But, if I was going to the track, a rally, or a hillclimb, I would prefer a Subaru these days. Times have changed. As people have been saying…BMW has lost its way.

Bill Caswell is a self-taught racing driver, mechanic, and fabricator, and rose to internet fame taking a $500 Craigslist BMW to a World Rally Championship event in Mexico in March of 2010. His exploits have featured in places like ESPN Magazine, Grassroots Motorsports, NPR Radio, Wired.com and Jalopnik.com. A lifelong fan of rally and motorsport, Caswell famously believes nothing to be impossible.