I think BMW will use the trademarks for one of the following:
- To name new models. BMW is running out of unique identifiers for cars as we observed with the 1 series M coupe
- To name models in a new line of cars made to compete with mass market brands in much the same way one sees with Honda/Acura, Toyota/Lexus
Of the two, I'm guessing it's the latter, but the former option is certainly plausible. I think it's the latter because as we know Audi already has a common-market brand and MB doesn't, unless you count the Smart Cars, which weren't a huge success outside Europe. I doubt BMW wants to be the last premier brand to have a mass market line. I think too that retaining the "i" theme exploits the existing goodwill of the BMW brand if applied to a common-market-priced assortment of vehicles. That's a slightly different strategy than we've seen with the other brands that have two main lines of vehicles.
Yes, we all know that Toyota and Lexus are the same company's cars. But what do we say about a Lexus? "It's a Toyota." With BMW's common-market-priced brand, one'd either have to call it a BMW or call it whatever it is. It doesn't suffer from linguistic downgrading as does Toyota and that's got to be a good thing from a marketing perspective.
I think too that BMW recognizes its cars (bought new) are outside the price range of the average buyer. That means they need to produce something that regular folks can afford if they are to grow in market share, particularly in the emerging markets such as China and India et al
. I'm sure they have lots of technology and engineering from other cars that can be incorporated into new models and they can probably increase their price leverage with suppliers by increasing their volume, which would likely bode well for all BMW-brand buyers.
Moreover, as many of even the older BMW models are still better performers than a swarm of existing cars, it's quite possible, if the factories can still support producing them, that BMW may want to offer them as mainstream vehicles and use a new name on them. Consider an e46 or e36 versus most any of the mainstream cars one can buy such as Hyundai, Kia, Daihatsu, etc. I for one vastly would prefer to an e46 over any of those cars. And just how much could it cost for BMW to produce such a car and sell it as a mass market vehicle? If they can produce a well equipped version of the e46 and sell it to the masses for $20K to $30K, the masses get an excellent vehicle.