The Ultimate Driving Machine
From the showroom, you have a panoramic view of the Indian River. However, those visiting the dealership aren’t watching the ospreys – their eyes are scanning the impressive display of what BMW describes as “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” For almost 100 years, Bayerische Motoren Werke (English: Bavarian Motor Works) has produced aircraft engines, motorcycles and some of the most desirable and innovative automobiles in the world.
Practically creating the luxury sports sedan, BMW emerged in the 1980s and 90s as the choice of a younger upwardly mobile demographic. According to Fortune magazine, “In 1975, when BMW opened its first dealership in the U.S., the German maker of sporty cars and motorcycles was barely known to American motorists. Now, 40 years later, BMW is the country’s top seller of luxury automobiles and the 11th most valuable brand worldwide, according to Interbrand’s 2014 survey.”
Sales in the U.S. became so strong (today second only to China) that BMW started producing automobiles at its Spartanburg, S.C. plant in 1994. The plant employs about 4,700 people and manufactures over 600 vehicles daily, of which over 70 percent are for overseas markets.
An Enduring Passion
Melbourne BMW General Manager Tom Mitas is not only a BMW enthusiast, he is a veteran. Starting with the company in his early 20s, he has seen BMW evolve from primarily a motorcycle importer to its status today. Having logged over 30 years with BMW, he remembers the days when he used to take motorcycle trips with BMW’s chief executives when they came to the U.S.
Mitas worked corporately for BMW throughout the U.S., including the Rocky Mountain States, which he remembers fondly as a virtual heaven for motorcycling. But it was in returning to San Francisco that he saw the enthusiasm for BMW’s automobiles begin to soar. “North of San Francisco in those mountainous areas, the roads are as winding as you would see in Europe. Nothing could match the performance of a BMW,” he said smiling.
Mitas has only been in the area for a little over a year, having relocated from dealerships in the Houston area. The opportunity in Brevard was appealing as BMW of Melbourne, which is actually some 40 years old, put over $5 million into a recently completed renovation.
Walking through the showroom, Mitas explained, “Because almost all maintenance on new BMWs, other than tires, is part of the warranty, they are one of the most sought after pre-owned vehicles. Almost 50 percent of the automobiles we sell are previously owned. BMW was the first to come out with ‘certified pre-owned’ cars, which adds a little to the cost of the car, but extends the value and warranty.”
Always a leader in innovation, the i3 from BMW was one of the first comparable sized automobiles that was conceived as an electric car. The i3’s 170-horsepower electric motor can do zero to 60 mph in about seven seconds, with the top speed electrically limited to 93 mph. It has a range of about 70 to 110 miles with a full charge, which takes about 3.5 hours, but offers an optional two-cylinder gas engine that extends the range to around 180 miles.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the vehicle is that in order to achieve a weight that would make it functional and efficient, BMW engineers introduced LifeDrive architecture into the vehicle’s construction. The high-strength passenger module is made primarily from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP). It is not only lighter, but far stronger than steel. The lower drive module, which integrates the battery, electric drivetrain, suspension and safety components, is 100 percent aluminum.
What is equally impressive is that most BMW automobiles, including the i3, are designed to be 100 percent recyclable. So in addition to providing the “Ultimate Driving Experience,” they are perhaps the most sustainably designed vehicles in the world.