BMW Customer Service Problems - E-mail (Flash/Tom Plucinsky/David H. Park) & selected web posts from F650.com and BMW's web site.
On Oct 24th, I was cc'd on a reply to "Flash" (aka David Braun) from Tom Plucinsky. I thought that the communications between Flash, Tom, and myself would be interesting for the community to see, Tom said that it was okay to make it public as did Flash so here it is.
These are in order of the first e-mail from Flash to Tom. The 2nd post is Tom's reply to Flash, and the 3rd is mine (lengthy) reply to Tom (& Flash).
As I've received many e-mails on this subject I felt that this was the best and easiest way to keep you all informed by reposting them here.
Warning! - My reply to Tom is very long (in the spirit of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged) and contains many points and themes. It is not a rant nor a diatribe but a series of replies to Tom's e-mail and some open suggestions. It's one of many that I've sent to BMW but the first one that I've made public in any real way.
David H. Park
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 9:30 AM
Hello Mr. P.,
There is something I want to share with you, that has to do with strategy, now that you've effectively closed the door on further discussions with David H. Park to improve BMW/customer relations. David Park and I both share a love of the BMW marque and a sadness at the ch nges wrought between BMW and its customers. How DOES a "little guy" get the attention of a big company, for *any* reason, particularly if the customer relations department is the problem?
David Park used his contacts in the industry and his expertise in the field of business to work his way into discussions with BMW executives.
Once in those discussions, he hoped to help "open your eyes" to consumer discontent. On the other hand, I was a "loose cannon." If I was a voice of
discontent, I would attract other consumers with woes. This data could then be "channeled properly."
In the end, it appears that BMW has little interest in the voice of the consumers. That saddens me greatly. I want you to understand my motivation for being "the grain of sand that endeavors to encourage the oyster to produce a pearl." If I irritated you, it was intended to inspire you to reach out to your customer base, before it is too late.
Since the "game" appears to be over, I will back off my flaming rhetoric and go on supporting my bike of choice, the F650, as well as airheads (on other lists). By the way, thank you for taking the time to answer my message concerning the software upgrades. On the F650 message board, there are
often "imposters" who use the byline of others. That is why I wrote to you directly.
- David A. Braun = Flash@deathstar.org
From: Thomas.Plucinsky@bmwna.com [mailto:Thomas.Plucinsky@bmwna.com]
Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 9:43 AM
To: email@example.com; Thomas.Plucinsky@bmwna.com
Subject: RE: Strategy
Dear David, (ed-Flash)
Thank you for your email yesterday.
First, I would like to say that David Park is a passionate motorcycle enthusiast...and hopefully still a BMW enthusiast. We have enjoyed talking
with him over the last few months. Our intent is certainly not to close the door on listening to David Park nor you nor any other customer for that matter. We have decided not to contract the services of David Park for purely business reasons. This is by no means a personal slight against David Park nor anyone else.
Our organization has undergone significant growth in the last five years. Our annual sales are now 3 times what they were 5 years ago. During this
same time, the number of BMW Motorcycles on the road has more than doubled. This growth nationally translates into the need for growth locally...the growth of our retailers. For these reasons alone, our organization has needed to change. Are we finished? No. We have just begun. In the process of planning for change, we have identified several areas that need improvement if we wish to sustain our growth.
I can assure you (and David Park) that our eyes are already open. The voice of the consumer is extremely important to us. We are working on several
projects (some of which I cannot disclose at this time) designed to position us in a different light to our customers. We are making these important changes not just because they make good business sense, but because we are riders and BMW enthusiasts too, just like our customers are.
Perhaps I can share with you some examples of recent initiatives.
F650GS Fuel Tank Recall
We were unfortunately faced with an early recall on the F650GS. Rather than issue the recall as is normally done throughout the automotive and
motorcycle industry, we decided to something extra. We contacted every registered customer by telephone (over 130 people). In conjunction with our retailers, we set up the appointments, offered to pick up the bike. We offered a loaner motorcycle while the F650GS was in for service. During this campaign, we monitored the Chain Gang site. From the comments that I read, I would say that we made a positive experience out of what
could have been a very negative experience.
The New BMW Motorcycles Web Site
The new corporate web site went live on August 17th. It is a very different site from our previous attempt, with far more information and features, and
since it's no longer built entirely in Flash, is easier to access for most users. Bmwmotorcycles.com has the distinction of being one of the few motorcycle manufacturer's sites (Aprilia and Ducati are the two others that I know of) that have a bulletin board. Why? Because we want to encourage the same free flow of information among our customers as between our customers and BMW. We don't censor the site (except for language) and we don't act like big brother either. (By the way, this is just Phase One of the site.)
BMW Riders in Photo Shoots
This year we began to use genuine BMW owners in all of our marketing and advertising, instead of professional models. We even replaced the stunt
riders. At the shoots we take all the "models" on an extensive ride, so they aren't just sitting around looking pretty. We also have invited other BMW
owners to participate in the rides. We had a very successful BMW Track Day at Loudon, New Hampshire in April, a leisurely two-day R 1200 C shore ride on Highway 1 in Northern California, followed by a hard-core GS Ride in Death Valley in May, and later the same month a three-day ride through the Texas Hill Country near San Antonio. We intend to continue this with track days and GS rides next year, and of course, invite BMW owners to participate in all of our future photo shoots. The next one (for the new F 650 CS) is provisionally planned as a Miami - Key West run in the middle of December. (We'll post the dates on the site as soon as we can confirm them.)
As you may know, the relationship between the BMW clubs (especially the MOA) and BMW NA has sometimes been strained. We've worked hard to improve our dialogue this year, resulting in much expanded corporate support for the club, especially at the MOA National in Redmond. Right now we are trying to organize a BMW track day near the rally site in Trenton; Ontario, a BMW owner's ride from our corporate headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey to the MOA National; and a special display of BMW vintage bikes sponsored by Mobile Tradition.
The Ride to the Guggenheim Event
In short, it was a huge success. Everybody that attended left with good memories. We did this for our customers and fellow riders, plain and
simple. Will we do another event like this? It would be hard to top The Art of the Motorcycle, but we are already looking at venues for next year.
David, these are just a few examples. The bottom line is that we do care. I should also clarify that when I say "we" I mean BMW Motorcycles as well as our retailers. Our retailers are the first link in the Customer Service chain. They are face to face with our customers every day and they are the
ones with access to the customers' bike. Believe me as a fellow rider and motorcycling enthusiast when I tell you that we will do everything possible to support our retailers, and to satisfy our customers.
PS. Although this email is in response to your earlier correspondence, I would not be offended if you decided to post it on the f650.com.
DHP's letter to Tom Plucinsky in reply to his e-mail to flash, cc'd to DHP
I think that you meant this e-mail for Flash ('David Braun') and not for me because I'm referred to in the 3rd person all of the time. As I was cc'd I'd thought that I'd address some of your comments and wanted to share this with the community following your PS comment to Flash.
My experience in dealing with BMW in these activities has left me with a deeper understanding of the company which has definitely affected how I feel about BMW as an enthusiast. While I think that what you are trying to do will undoubtedly be with the best intentions. I truly don't feel that you "listen to the customer" including the fact that you don't really even listen to your dealer network or other market participants. (sorry, that's my opinion).
This however is nothing new to BMW. It has been a long-standing and well known problem, the only difference that I've brought to the table is that I've brought it to the public view and documented it (other management consultants, industry analyst, mutual fund managers, and market participants know this as well). My research into this industry has not been just BMW centric. I've talked to the other manufacturers as well to get an idea of how they do it and also compared ways of dealing with issues to other industries (best practices). In fact, I had a conversation yesterday with Harley Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bleustein which really blew me away. Even without knowing me he was much more sincere and lucid about the same issues that face (and threaten BMW). I rewarded him by buying his stock and am now looking into getting a VROD.
You are at the beginning of your tenure so I don't want to be overly harsh. It's not fair to place any blame on your shoulders for the organization's leadership in the past (and Ed Robinson has done a great job of growing the sales of the brand), but the word from the retailers (and many customers) is that they are sick and tired of the poor job that BMWNA has done (even in the recent wonderful past).
Underneath the curtains, BMWNA has a reputation of a place where corporate non-performers went to hang-out for a while if they couldn't cut it in the automotive side, BMWNA especially has a reputation of "well we can't do that because..." and not "how can we make this possible!", as well as a reputation for being slow and non-communicative about issues that could be shared more openly as they affect more parties than BMW (perhaps there are BMW AG issues or other things perhaps not). Corporate cultures like political cultures (remember how much we knew of what went on behind the "Iron Curtain") can't hide, people talk they interact with the public. As proof of this I offer two e-mails one from Marty Roach of BMWNA and the other from an employee of a BMW dealership (one of many such letters that I have received). You can read these online at www.dhpmoto.com/BMW-problems2.htm - see for yourselves and make up your own mind if the internal participants don't think that there is something wrong.
Additionally, your policy of not hiring from the outside is an anathema in the modern corporation of best teams and free-agents. The leading corporations of the world, GE, Microsoft, etc. would die if they did this. In fact a diverse team with individual minds is one of the key assets widely recognized in top performing corporations (read any HBS or other publication and you'll see). In the end it's all about the people. This is one key failing of BMW. You are all about the traditional four P's of marketing (Product, Place, Promotion, and Price) and not about the new big (read hugely important P); People. This is evident in your strategies, policies, actions, etc and in this sense I mean not only the internal BMW people but how you generally work with people such as your dealers and talk to your customers.
Regarding your comments about "positioning yourself in a different light"; It's not about 'positioning' which is pure marketing. It's about 'performance' and 'service' which then will let the customers (including retailers) 'position' BMW in their own mind. There is little or nothing that you really can do to force position yourself in the areas that create brand loyalty other than deliver the performance that people deserve and expect. There is no major drug nor ad which can do this. Save some of the marketing budget and put it on the front lines. Even Sam Wannamaker (you should know him from business history as the founder of the modern department store) knew this when he made his famous comment about "half the money he spent on advertising was wasted, but he didn't know which half." This is not just my observation it comes from the best experts in management science with whom I communicate with on a regular basis in these areas. Today the stats on advertising effectiveness are even worse, yet this continues to be the primary weapon of choice for BMW to increase it's sales. Successful businesses of today are not sales and market driven nor are they product driven they are customer driven. In your market Harley knows this far better than BMW, really and you have (unfortunately) a very long way to go to catch up.
I also want to comment for the record that I think that your statements about being "riders and BMW enthusiasts" while meant well is also a crutch. Look at people like John Leonardo, Eric Quilter, Tracy Weber, and Mark Wagner etc. who's bikes are not working and have been in the shop for months. Anybody can just go to www.dhpmoto.com/BMW-problems.htm (which I've given to you privately before) to download and listen to the conversations between myself and BMW owners with open and unresolved issues. I know that these people have contacted you personally and have received no response. If people listen to these conversations can they honestly say that these people are lying and that BMW is correct? I know that you bought back on Lemon Law recall the bikes of John Robbins and others. The R1200C customers have broken taillights and bad chrome, K1200RS customers had thrown rods - I could go on and on. REAL riders (like Flash for example, for those who are curious see http://www.deathstar.org/~flash/ and/or read his book "Gathering Speed - Tales of Motorcycles and Life") who see a biker stopped by the side of the road pull over to say hi and see if they need any help even if they are only taking a break. BMW has a well known history of leaving customers in the lurch - excuses ranging from "we're too busy, understaffed, deal with the dealer", whatever - the point is that you can't hide from the truth which is now coming to light via the Internet (which hurts) and your customers talk amongst themselves making up their own mind and "positioning". The crutch is there because at companies like Southwest Airlines or Hertz it doesn't take everybody to be a pilot or a race car driver in order to provide excellent service in line with corporate objectives/guidelines as well as in the best interests of the customer - why should everybody at BMW need to be a rider and enthusiast; this is a marketing line and not a business requirement (i.e. staffing).
Fuel tank recall, great! You apparently did the right thing. On the www.f650.com board the question has been asked to verify this from the community so we'll soon see if what you state is true (at least according to responders and BTW most BMW Motorcycle dealers don't have loaners so I'm curious as to how this was arranged and as you can see from Harl's post the 'loaner' wasn't apparently easy).
One response so far was:
"Question; has BMW ever officially, recalled anything? I've had a few items over the years that certainly could have qualified as such, but no written notice to anybody ever was sent. My problems have always been owner myself) spearheaded. "BMW did fix the problems". There are some replacements that have been large safety issues, in my opinion, but never have I seen a factory effort to go after such problems, e.g.; notifying the owners. I very well may have missed some effort by BMW to solve recall issues, as the automobile mfgs. do. I know your concern seems to address problems switching tanks on the GS's. I've no experience with these, but my '99 tank leaked and the carbs came from factory hooked up wrong and no effort was made to let me know my bike had serious safety flaws. Maybe the problems I had did not affect enough bikes for their concern, but it sure left me wondering!" - Richard #23-
Another response was:
"The tank recall went fine. They did call me to notify me. I was able to ride the bike until time for the 600 mile service and get both done at the same time. My dealer did provide a loaner, somewhat grudgingly." - Harl #380
If you say that it was a good experience then I believe you (but reserve final comment based on the real market feedback) - so why have you not done the same thing for people with surging and stalling F650GSs? What is the difference? This is a new product and the first BMW for many people - you have done more damage to the BMW brand and future sales with the poor handling (secretive, assigning blame, slow response, etc.) of people's concerns about the F650GS. These will have repercussions on the F650CS market - you can't escape what your historical performance and responses have been because they are part of the market commentary. You haven't yet reworked the market to the point where people have "re-positioned" (to use your words) BMW after their bad experiences (which are the most powerful force in commerce) - and today people talk about things which is a primary influencer in the marketplace. Glowing reviews from magazines are looked at with cynical eyes from most people, they use the Internet as "the" source to talk to PEOPLE and use this information to make up your mind. Unfortunately, I think that you've put yourself in a bad position from the start. It could have been much better.
Needless to say, if you took a step back from the marketing aspects of the site and looked at what the broad community of BMW owners wanted and needed you missed the target completely (I know because I've talked to a wide cross section of owners and dealers about it and would have a much different site). Compare your dealer finder to Harley or Honda - it's so easy to partner/outsource to a mapping company like Vicinity or Mapquest to get the address based search and map like they have BMW's site is archaic 1994 web style by comparison (just select a state with no dealers and you'll get the default state not a nice message saying "no dealers"). And by the way, this section of the site is down yet again. Comparison to Aprilia and Ducati on the bulletin board aspect is as weak as the bulletin board is. I never would have launched the site with such a bad purely HMTL based BBS system (one among other problems in the site). Your customers really don't need the BMW bulletin board to comment about BMW - they do it themselves both in public and in private outside of your view. And by the way if you censor the board for language then why don't you take down Laurence's post about "Evaluation is genuine not bullshit" - you've got to lead by example right? I've gotten e-mail from people since he posted this very defensive retort which people think genuinely shows how BMW can't deal with these issues.
Riders in photo shoots. A nice touch. However again just marketing and advertising. Doesn't really touch the soul of the customer nor do anything to help them in the problem areas. This is a fun benefit but doesn't build/strengthen the "helping hand" model. You talk on the Chain Gang about not being able to engage each customer individually yet you are doing it here. Why not try to build some systems for the whole of the enterprise (BMW, dealer, and customers). Instead of this photo shoot I'm sure that BMW owners would appreciate better repair manuals available WITH the bike for free (in Adobe Acrobat as it currently is) instead of a weak owners manual (pamphlet) and a repair manual that is lightweight at best. Aprilia has the repair manual online in Acrobat format for it's owners to download and BMW owners need to buy it for $60-120 USD? Dealers stock this and it sits on the shelf for along time. People copy and trade these via the Internet anyways so what's the point? Electrical diagrams are $40-60?
The model to follow is Cisco or Cobalt/Sun. Just go to their web sites and download their manuals. By giving the information to the customer they create a bond of trust (oh and by the way the customer DID buy the product and expects a quality manual). While I'm on this topic, a common complaint is that toolkits are made of a unknown metal that has the same consistency as plastic silverware? Both long term BMW owners and new buyers clearly recognize this as issues that should be addressed instead of just having their picture taken to sell more bikes. Trust me when one owns a BMW bike and rides (as all BMWNA motorcycle employees do, right) and you have a minor breakdown these are the information and tools that you want to have available in your garage (or on the road). Why not make a co-branding deal with Snap-On for better tools? It's not your core competency area and it's theirs. Be innovative and not just the lowest cost provider of substandard tools. And include the few other tools that should be with every basic toolkit but are missing from BMW's. It's a small area but one that will differentiate yourself from the competition. People will say, "yes but my BMW motorcycle comes with premium Snap-On tools". I bet that it really wouldn't cost you any more than what you are doing now. Motorcyclists will respect you for it and be drawn to the brand. Set a new standard for the industry to try to keep up with. Dare to be different. The market will reward you.
If you do take this track a better information publishing strategy (my area of expertise) would clearly differentiate BMW from its competitors and help out its consumers. Where are the online microfiches for ALL old BMW bikes? Where are the updated specifications for the incorrect torque value for the F650GS oil plug. In fact where is the system for publishing updates about bikes and repairs not only to the dealers but to the customers? How about online copies of repair invoices so that customers who travel with their bike can have a dealer look at what was done at another dealer or provide copies to a buyer of their bike when they sell it on the used marketplace (sure the Lightspeed system may not do all of this but you could easily write some middleware and data extraction tools for low cost to enable these services linked to the web).
Why use the Internet only internally when it can benefit all participants in your business. The customers are already doing this with their own updates, warnings, and FAQs - get a clue and follow suit. The model to follow is NOT Aprilia, Ducati, or even Honda nor Harley Davidson. It is Boeing! Don't just look to the competition in your industry because they might not be any better than you are at it. This is classic Deming, Peters, and a host of other business experts - where does BMW rank on this area? Can you really compare your customer service to LL Bean? Have you bothered to talk to them as many other corporations do to learn from them (they openly teach this area of expertise).
With regards to information publishing, Boeing was among the early developers of SGML (the father language to HTML) they have always been into information architecture and information publishing - but where is this competency at BMW? Do you have an "information librarian" that has the knowledge of the marketplace needs as well as the abilities to design the systems to warehouse, organize, and distribute such information. Technology is the pervasive driving force in business today and information architecture/publishing is one of the key areas of competence that delivers sustainable competitive advantage and customer loyalty. Talk about "positioning"! This would really make BMW #1 with its customers. But I guess that they will settle for being in the next ad trying to fix their tools without a manual and with tools that bend like spoons. I'd rather be following the Sy Syms model of "an educated customer is our best customer" - what's BMW's motto for this part of your business?
I can't speak for the other rides but I'm sure that they went well and were fun (as all riding is). I did try to go to the Death Valley ride but couldn't because of scheduling. The comment that I do have though that your communications methodology and systems that connect BMWNA to the dealers and to the customers are inefficient in getting the word out, getting feedback, and dealing with the communications for these events. There are very simple technologies that you can employ that would put your customers "on a ring" with BMW such that the fluidity and manageability of this information would be greatly enhanced. Many dealers that I spoke to got late notices or no notice, many riders had confusing information which was hard to verify. This also was the case for the Guggenheim ride. "Information is like a virus and needs management" - this is a saying (mine) that I use with people to illustrate the rapid moving nature of information.
BMWNA has no system to push information out to people and help control its flow other than e-mail and other standard means. Just as your business has grown the use of these tools by others has grown making the basic tools inefficient for BMW to use as the means for primary communications. The difference between man and other animals though is that we can build new tools - and there are many out there that BMW should be using (for example do you know how you can distribute video clips to dealers with repair procedures using their current slow networks and computers, really!, it can be done and they want this and more). The benefits of these tools by the way are not just in communications about rides but would be applicable to other areas of BMWNA to dealer and community communications. The same investment would be applicable to multiple areas delivering higher ROI across multiple segments of the business (exactly what good technology/business systems integration should do). It is both customer side and business side technology. You don't have a different browser or word processor for home so why should your operational/communications systems be any different.
I have documented cases where dealers have not gotten their ad slicks from Laurence even after multiple phone calls and e-mails which has prevented them from placing newspaper ads (which in turn hurts them/BMW because they can't sell bikes), I have documented cases where people have not gotten word of something because of e-mail failure or failure on a BMW team member to deliver a key bit of information, and there are many more areas of 'workflow communications' where BMW suffers from poor systems and execution. These are readily apparent to me because of my work as the leading evangelist for Lotus Notes in the early '90s. Notes at the time was a groundbreaking way to deal with corporate information storage and dissemination combining a database and communications into a new paradigm (it was the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup of knowledge and awareness). Today it has become a huge success for IBM (which bought Lotus for $6.1B in the mid '90s). While not the technical/product solution that BMWNA needs the 'capability to empower' that such technology embodies deployed over the Internet using other tools IS what BMW needs to become better connected with its dealers and customers. Don't get fancy here, stick to the Sun adage that "the network is the computer" and empower people through organized and distributed information exchange; it's a strategy that will pay back big dividends as everybody in the economic system gets smarter and more connected.
BMW Clubs - Great! You've started to repair the rift between MOA and BMWNA. It's been a long time coming and I'm sure that they welcome it. Again your tools are track days and display of BMW bikes, nice efforts but really not addressing the sources of pain that people have been feeling from BMW for a long time. I've got more ideas on this but part of what I think has already been stated in the memo previously so I'll refrain from repeating myself.
The Ride to the Guggenheim. Yes, even though I wasn't there (The bike I wanted to take was held up in shipping), I heard that it was a nice event. Should you do another event, well I can't say because I'm not privy to the Sales and Marketing budget to determine whether you felt that you got the right benefits from it. However making 'customer experiences' is a good thing especially if they are positive. So, if you're interested in events - why doesn't BMW get behind the Jimmy Lewis enduro/dual sport training sessions that I'm helping Jimmy organize. I've already done the ground work, put together an informational flyer and e-mailed it to BMW dealers in Canada and the US (calling many of the personally along the way). Response has been great! You could promote it through the dealer network and use it as an 'event'. It's ready to go and will do fine on it's own but here's a great chance for you to get involved.
While most people are bringing their bikes we also could use your help with loaner bikes because this would make it even easier for people to attend. I am proposing that BMW provide 10 used F650GS or F650GS Dakar bikes (perhaps some of the bikes that were bought back under Lemon Law) and I'll partner BMW up with a tire manufacturer (Pirelli or Continental) to get them on knobbies. Insurance and rental can be arranged from Michael Mandell of Mandell Inc. (www.mandellinc.com) or as he's already got a program set up to do this (which should be expanded to the BMW retailer network so that all BMW dealers can have loaner and rental bikes, and by the way he and I have figured out how to do European delivery of a US spec bike today at no additional cost/liability to BMW). For the training we can store the bikes at Yankee Motorcycles (already checked it out with them) and also tie in a "fly and ride" with the Guggenheim (also because of the recent unfortunate death of one of the store's owners this would be a nice boost to his business). Oh, and by the way, if you're interested we'll have to move fast because the first class is in November (Laurence has all of the info and it's on my website www.dhpmoto.com).
Whether you do this or not I want to bring to your attention that you should be doing with Jimmy before you lose him to another manufacturer like BMW lost Andrea Mayer. Jimmy's dying to test out the new 1150GS Adventure, why don't you swap the GS that he has now under contract for a new 1150GS Adventure and let him participate in a small marketing tour of dealers. Humanize the equipment and sell the dream. You missed this chance with Andrea Mayer. Where was Jimmy in the big Las Vegas event? Perfect place for him to have been visible giving a presentation on BMW bikes, how he raced them in the Paris-Dakar, and how he loves his boxer (really!).
In my opinion BMW/BMWNA should have put Andrea Mayer on the payroll and brought her to the US for introduction of the F650CS to the media (including TV which would have been newsworthy as a Paris-Dakar woman pilot, etc.) and for helping bring women to motorcycling (arranging a multi-city tour with demos and seminars). If you want to grow your market you'll have to do some things like this (hey, it's the first sales and marketing idea, not bad!) but now you can't do it with Andrea because she's a KTM employee.
This is a shame because she speaks perfect English and there is no such visible spokeswoman in US motorcycling (besides Harley Davidson's Jennifer Snyder). Audi recently ran TV ads featuring Michèle Mouton who was the first woman to ever win an international rally (San Remo, 1981). These have had a positive effect on Audi's sales as women are the primary decision maker in new automotive purchases. For BMW it would be great to get the women off of the back seat and into the front seat (more sales!) While the racing isn't important it is important for women in motorcycling to have people to look up to. For example, what has BMW done in the past with Iron Butt rider Fran Crane (now recently deceased)? Were there marketing opportunities with her, sure - did BMW openly support education in this area but what about the human connection (don't know if you did or if you ever did anything with Fran)?
For example in the AMA Women & Motorcycling Conference 2000 the Platinum Sponsors were Harley-Davidson/Buell, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Progressive Insurance, and Yahama. BMW was not only among its peers it wasn't even a Gold or Silver sponsor (you were a vendor). Did BMW bring Fran Crane or Andrea Mayer there to speak at the conference, no (not to my knowledge). The image BMW has with women in motorcycling is that of a reckless Lauren Hutton running off of the road and almost killing herself (the headline was: "Lauren Hutton's brush with death was featured on ABC's Primetime on March 1, 2001. She describes the crash she had with her BMW motorcycle while on a run with many other stars last year & her quote was: "I love the feeling of being a naked egg atop that throbbing steel," she said. "You feel vulnerable but so alive."). I think that Frane Crane who taught motorcycle training through MSF and CLASS and who was a lifelong BMW rider (see attached pictures) would have made a much better spokesperson.
For the future though there is still hope - The AMA has announced the 3rd Women & Motorcycling Conference in June 29-July 3rd, 2002 in West Virginia. Do you think that Andrea Mayer will be there for KTM fresh off a ladies category win at Dakar - you bet! BMW could have avoided all of this with some pre-emptive moves and secured a great resource for promoting BMW and women riding motorcycles. I predict that the same thing will happen with Jimmy Lewis if BMW doesn't give him a contract for training/promotional sales and marketing. You'll lose any residual benefit from your Dakar efforts. John Deacon is dead (very sad) and both Nani Roma and Cyril Despres don't speak English (and ride for other marques and don't live in the US). Jimmy is high visibility because of Cycle World, lives in the US, is an amazing nice guy, loves teaching, loves BMW and could be a great asset for BMW's growth in the US. Just ask Honda about how this works (I did), they run ads all of the time featuring Johnny Campbell which really help sales. BMW could have done something much more with the team members, it's not too late, perhaps you could do something with Jimmy, support his training sessions with equipment (which benefits BMW) and find a way to utilize him before you lose him like you did Andrea.
I hope that you take my comments with the full force and open positive intention in which they are written. Yes, they are critiques, I'm an analyst and venture capitalist not a public relations/marketing guy. Time and money are critical factors in the enterprises in which I'm involved. People have thick skins in these endeavors and get down to brass tacks very quickly (ever been on a trading floor of an investment bank, worked through a difficult financing with clients, or launched an IPO? words aren't meant to hurt they are just ways of setting the "positioning" correct so that one can see the forest for the trees). For whatever your "purely business reasons" we clearly don't see the situation the same nor do we have the same ideas for improving the BMW business. I would think that that would have been an additional asset for your to use as corporate leader but perhaps you found it threatening - I don't have any real feedback on your decision other than "After careful consideration of your proposal and a review of our current and planned retailer and customer initiatives, we have decided that we do not require your services at this time."
Regardless, I appreciate the dialogue that we have had and stand by my analysis of BMW and recommendations. If you'd like to reconsider your decision or otherwise continue our discussions I'm still an 'avid enthusiast' (albeit with the right business background) to help. It's not so much the work (which I don't need) but the unique opportunity to do something for a company who's products I love to buy and ride and for the BMW community at large that is a nice part of what I do with my free time.
I've posted my proposal to BMW at www.dhpmoto.com/proposal.htm - while this is not the complete text or content of what we've discussed/my recommendations; as you've taken your decision I thought it would be interesting for the community to see.
David H. Park
Home- (Main) BMW Proposal BMW Problems 1-Audio BMW Problems 2-Emails BMW Problems 4-Customer E-mails