BMW and Naming Tradition

It's a weird fact of life that car guys get obscenely excited about brown cars, station wagons, diesels, and stick shifts. Sometimes they get so excited they have to go to a bathroom, but that's another matter altogether. One of the things that car guys really don't like, though, is a break from tradition. Change is about as abhorrent as the Holocaust, the Crusades, and Meg Ryan's lip job. So, when a couple of years ago, BMW decided to make an M-version of their 1-series, the car world got very excited. But, when it was discovered that BMW was to name it the 1-series M coupe, I don't think I've seen as much commotion on the internet since Rebecca Black (remember her?!).

For some reason, people really didn't want BMW to name it the M1, which would have actually made sense and rolled off the tongue nicely. They didn't like this because about forty years ago BMW made a car called the M1 that wasn't that fast or successful in racing, but since it was a mid-engined supercar from the late '70s, car guys had to use the bathroom as soon as they saw it. The point is, is that this M1 wasn't actually that great, but it's just one of those things like Forrest Gump that's managed to be immortalized in the collective imagination. BMW realized this, and in order to not give every fat neck-bearded guy with an E30 M3 on their desktop background an aneurysm, they named the new car that stupid name that's too long to type out. A break from tradition would have been worse than something that actually made sense.

BMW and Naming Tradition

This happened again recently, but this time BMW really messed up. They decided to rename what used to be the 3-series coupe, the 4-series. No big deal there, just some extra model differentiation that's probably good marketing, if I knew anything about marketing. When it came time to make M-versions of these cars, they named them, of course, the M3 and the M4. Some people inexplicably got really upset about the fact that there was no longer an M3 coupe. I don't get it. It's the name of a car, it doesn't really matter. Why is the extinction of a name of a car so bad? The M3 coupe doesn't even have that much history behind it—I might understand the hullabaloo if Porsche decided to rename the 911, or Chevy the Camaro, or Ford the Mustang, or whatever, but the M3 coupe doesn't have the heritage or the cool name. There's still an M3, and there's still an M3 coupe. They're just calling the latter the M4. They're still building the cars, aren't they? They still look good and go fast, don't they? So who cares if the name has changed?

All the fast-car manufacturers change names all the time. Ferrari has repeated a badge only once (California), Lamborghini never, Maserati a few times (Quattroporte), and beyond that, can you think of anything? It's not worth getting worked up about—there's progression and change occurring all around us all the time, so get used to it, change your underwear, and shave that neck beard.