While in Vegas on BMW's dime to drive the new 2 series and 4 series convertible, I managed to accomplish my two favorite things to do in Vegas: visit America's only full-release Gertrude Stein-impersonating masseuse, and ask a bunch of dumb questions to car company bigshots. Here's how it went down. The car part, I mean.
These questions were asked to a group of BMW engineers, PR guys, product planners, and drivers, over a lavish dinner of what I think were lion cutlets. Maybe they were oryx? I can never tell.
The Idea: BMW needs a van! It all started when I showed one of the nice chassis dynamics guys this sketch of a hypothetical BMW 2002-based van.
The Response: The engineer was surprisingly very interested, and had me email him this picture! Emboldened, I discussed this idea with as many other people as I could, including one of BMW's very own racing drivers, who claimed he'd be the "first in line" to buy a BMW van!
It wasn't easy convincing the PR guy that it wouldn't hurt the BMW brand, but I really tried. I think he was convinced, because he had me escorted over by two BMW Special Engineers to another table, at the back of the room! They said there was one very particular engineer he wanted to hear my ideas! Germans sure have funny ideas about the way arms fold, though.
The Idea: BMW should have a new-Isetta inspired city car! They could adapt the unused Mini Rocketman platform or something — the Isetta still has plenty of positive name-associative charm, and it would stand out from everything, especially if a front-door solution could be figured out!
The Response: I showed them that drawing above there, from an older post about how the Mitsubishi iMev already looked like an Isetta, a bit. The engineer I was speaking to said lots of people had this idea already.
The engineer then proceeded to emit a blinding white light from one of his eyeballs, which projected the above images on the wall, proving his point. I argued that this should be more proof that they need to do it, since so many people are already imagining it.
He rotated his head to face me in a slow, deliberate fashion, and then sat there staring at me, a slight humming sound emitting from his neck. Those Germans!
The Idea: Everyone knows one of my big agendas is to re-introduce small, fun, useful pickup trucks to America. So why not a BMW 2-series based pickup? Great driving dynamics, nice compact size, great look. Just throw a bed that can haul a sheet of plywood on the back and we're in business! Build it in the South Carolina plant and avoid the Chicken Tax! This thing would print money!
The Response: The strangely still and humming engineer informed me that BMW had done something like this as an April Fool's joke a few years ago. His hand bolted up to grip my arm, hard. Cold, and strangely hard. He said saying such ideas could possibly indicate I was a fool as well. Then, a panel opened on his forehead as a red laser proceeded to slowly scan up my body.
I can't get enough of these cultural differences! Maybe this is some Bavarian thing?
The idea: I think the BMW i3 is a triumph of packaging: rear underfloor engine, front trunk, almost the entire length of the car available for people or cargo — it's brilliant. But the electric car infrastructure just isn't mature yet. So how about a BMW i3 with no batteries or electric motors, and one of BMW's flat twins from their motorcycle line?
It would make an incredible small car — rear engine/RWD, about 110 HP, terrific space utilization, light, novel, fun — it'd be sort of like a new BMW 700, but totally modern!
I would love to see a car like that! And, it would get great gas mileage and be much cheaper to build than the electric i3. There would be nothing else on the market that could compare.
The Response: The engineer stared blankly at me for a few moments. Then, his eyes glowed a fierce red, and I saw his arms start to pinwheel like a pair of propellers wearing an expensive suit.
I woke up as the doctors were re-attaching my arm. The pain was indescribable, but one of the doctors said it's all okay, because I seemed like a real dipshit anyway, and they didn't really care. That's a load off!
My arm still doesn't really work the way it used to (elbow bends the other way, now) but it basically works. I'm still just excited that BMW was so receptive to all my great ideas! I wonder if they'll let me drive the first all-gas i3! Maybe they'll call it the j3, after me!
Man, Germans are great!