Politically Incorrect Advertising: Not From Trump or Clinton, But BMW

June 21, 2016

 I just watched a very disturbing advertisement on the Internet, and it has nothing to do with this year’s presidential campaign. There was no Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to be seen or heard from.

No (fill in the name of a Republican Party leader here) railing against you-know-who. No Bernie Sanders trying to change the Democratic Party’s rules.

It was a 52-second BMW dealer ad comparing independent repair facilities to BMW service centers. And it really made the tire dealership in question look bad. (Although the shop had a sign up that said Lou’s Automotive Specialists, a partial sign made it clear it was a tire dealership.)

Here’s what the split-screen ad catering to BMW owners had to say.

  1. “There are garages, and there are BMW service centers.” While the dirty bay of the tire dealership overflowed with equipment and tools, the BMW drive-thru lanes looked like the check-in area at a five-star hotel.
  2. “There are mechanics that use parts, and there are certified technicians that use genuine parts.” The independent technician sported facial hair and was wearing a dirty uniform. He thumbed through an old service manual and looked confused. He even dropped a nut on the floor while searching through boxes of parts. The clean-cut BMW greeter, on the other hand, was wearing a clean black shirt and holding a clipboard. Then a tech in a gray uniform appeared with his highly organized parts cart. Everything in the BMW bay looked computerized.
  3. “There are waiting areas, and there are lounges.” While the customer looked for a cup while holding a half-filled pot of coffee, the same customer was enjoying a cappuccino in a comfortable chair with armrests. Guess which facility was which? To make it look even worse, the three consumer-unfriendly magazines in the tire dealer's waiting area included “Wheels & Windshields” magazine, which is fictitious. There was also a bogus, beaten-up copy of “European Classics.” As for the BMW side of the screen, I don't know what the customer was reading, but I've never seen a lounge with racks of wearables in the background.

And now for the big finish: “You can’t compare the experience, but you can compare the cost. Competitive prices for genuine parts and service.” While this was being read, the inattentive tech in the tire dealership was cleaning the car with a dirty rag, eventually wiping the back window by mistake while looking at his smartphone. In contrast, the BMW tech was cleaning the vehicle with a clean rag, treating the car as if it was owned by BMW AG Chairman Harald Krüger.

The BMW drive-thru lanes looked like the check-in area at a five-star hotel.

Any car dealership can claim its prices are competitive because it is a relative term. It usually means the dealership's price is more expensive. Given that all the parts used at the BMW dealership are, as it says in the ad, “Original BMW Parts,” I wonder how competitive the BMW prices can be.

There is one clue. At the end of the ad, there is a special on BMW brake service starting at $239.99. The small print says the pricing is for front or rear pads and sensors only, and is valid for only 3 Series models. It only applies to participating BMW centers, and “additional costs may apply.”

To see the ad for yourself, go to www.youtube.com and search for “BMW repair, compare independent vs. dealership.” To date, it has nearly 1,900 views, including mine.

Car dealerships have been formidable competitors of independent tire dealers for years. Since 2000, they have raised their collective market share from 1% in 1998 to 8% in 2015. They did it by being very aggressive, offering lifetime free tire replacement, building their own stores (Ford Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers) and spending millions of dollars on national television ads. Many franchisees have received help from Dealer Tire LLC, an independent dealer "exclusively dedicated to helping original equipment automobile manufacturers design, implement and manage profitable tire programs for their dealerships that, in turn, increase customer satisfaction, customer safety and customer retention," according to its website.

This eight-month-old ad is certainly aggressive, but it does not portray tire dealers accurately. I don’t know how we all missed it, letting it run without a strong rebuttal.

Better late than never.  

If you have questions or comments, please email me at [email protected].

To read more of Bob Ulrich's editorials, click:

On the Rise: As We Pay Tribute to Gen Y, We Build a Community

Posting, Tweeting and Selling

Extreme Protectionism Builds Walls and Hinders Aggressive Business

Adapt and Conquer: Obamacare, Tire Labeling and Tire Registration

An Important Voice: 'Independently Owned' Still Means Something

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.