If any BMW owner can show me a receipt for $300 to replace cooling system components on a 5 series, I bet the world will beat a path to your door.
The usual Badge-Rationalization from Bimmer-Boyz is always one of these three things:
1. You got a bad example... must be a lot of those I guess.
2. You didn't maintain it so your expectations are unrealistic. Most of the front suspension bushings at 80K? Really?
3. It's a high performance car, so more maintenance. Again, you pay more but you get less? Really?
I love BMW's, but if you think they come from mystical "Land-O-Bavarian-Schumacher" factory... you are going to be disappointed.
They're great cars under warranty; after that, it's spin of the roulette wheel with what you're going to deal with.
I'm a car guy myself and believe you me, I've thought about these cars and yes I've driven a friend's 328. But all of the data on these cars shows them to be money pits when trouble hits!
I have had it with sports sedans. I have an SUV for bad weather and a new Corvette for nice days. They are great and don't live in the shop. The money I was dumping out on repairs allowed me to upgrade. I would possibly go with an Audi with AWE Tuning and a Stage 1 kit if the desire to go back to a sedan ever returns.
$300 is only labour on any car - even a Japanese Daihatsu 3-cylinder car - to get to the odd components, which could only cost a small amount.
Parts cost is heavily biased on where (which country) you are in. Writing in from New Zealand - we haven't got many American cars here, but even owning a Japanese car can make your eyes water if you can't buy parts from a wrecking yard. Without converting currency, how's $850 + GST (15%) for the fuel pump of a Mitsubishi Galant, vs. $600 for an Audi 3.0? Or a $250 coil (one piece!) for a Mazda 323 vs. $75 for a BMW 3-series?
Sure, a Japanese car will break down less often - but once the car hits 10 years old, every car breaks down. And Suzuki or Mercedes, it's not going to be cheap even for a sensor.
The North American market also has the disadvantage of having only the top-shelf (therefore more complicated) versions of these cars; the rest of the world may seem foolish in buying a 318i or an Audi A3 1.6 or the like, but these simpler, less powerful engines are pretty dependable, and with no complications like electric memory seating or having normal non-climate control air con, easier and cheaper to maintain.
You buy the car that suits the market - if parts/repair are extortionate for a certain type of vehicle, go for what is mainstream. But certainly, though no Toyota, BMW is mainstream in many parts of the world, and it can't have become that if it were a bad car. And the perception of prestige is relative - anything common enough is not that much of a status symbol. Especially in places where Mercedes or Audis can run around with hubcaps.
People will pay for image or status. Service, durability, and MPG may be of lesser importance than being seen. You may want a 60.00 shirt with a horse or reptile on it, or a handbag that costs more than the dollars currently contained in it.
I started finally learning, after 25 years plus of car shows, that people are not really there to see me; it's my cars. You may get the attention, but it's about the car still.
You are right about driving a Honda or Camry. The sports sedan Acuras, which I owned as well, cost more to service. HID lights, wider speed rated tires vs a regular model. I now drive a new plain crossover 99 percent of the time. It's not going to draw much attention. In fact I prefer it when going through radar traps etc as I am more likely to get a ticket in a car I drive daily. I went back to school; 8 years more at night. A car badge may seem to add credibility, but does it really? I like to be proud of myself vs what's in the parking lot. I also like driving performance cars for the real fun; not what strangers think. But status sells and is a big draw. People often drive themselves deep in dept, and have high credit card balances and car loan debts to achieve it. Kind of sad.
Of course they're there to see your cars, why else?
Anywhere that a product (doesn't have to be a car) is marketed as an item of prestige, then the rest of it follows. Prestige is what you make it, and then again, regardless of your view for or against a product, the local attitude prevails.
Can't understand why "Acura" is deemed a luxury car - it's just a Honda outside North America. Really. The TSX is an Accord, which competes with cars like the Ford Mondeo or Mazda 6 in the real world. For the longest time, Mercedes wouldn't sell vans in America with the 3-pointed star as it may affect the branding they have cultivated - even if the whole world knows Mercedes makes trucks and delivery vans. And taxis in Amsterdam or Brussels are all Mercedes.
It's all a matter of access. If you live in a country where you can reasonably afford to get a new or used so-called prestige brand, then only you who have owned one or several will know what it's all about. Then you make the call. You may have a good run, you might get a lemon, but once you take the badge off it, then you can judge for yourself what makes it different. No access - and it is very vulnerable to sour grapes. There are grapes that are sour, but not enough for people not to buy them.
As the guy from Poland said - it is very mainstream over there. And Poland is not richer than America. And the guy from New Zealand - yes, Japanese cars can get very expensive to repair too, and they do break down. To each his own.
Some people need attention or a feeling of power perhaps.
After many years of some very nice cars, my passion today is only the machine. I love driving great cars on windy roads on mild days with the tops down.
Being in a car club, doing distance caravans or tech nights is really fun. Sitting in a chair for 8 hours at shows after many years, the passerby isn't looking at the old owners. A car doesn't make you important. The trophies reflect hard work. My biggest pride today is being in shows that have helped others and charities.
Even quite a few people have no idea what I drive. The first time I realized this long ago was passing a school bus in town. All the kids were hanging out the window pointing and cheering. Didn't happen when I drove my pickup and was just another person in the crowd. My take is that people may look and be drawn to seeing who is driving and can afford such an expensive vehicle. I don't want that kind of recognition as it's false. It's far more rewarding owning a car you have dreamed of, vs status which will make you tired keeping up.
I am appreciative of those that really like the cars vs. who drives them. Not everyone is capable of feeling this way. I know a young guy that cashed in his 401k and another that bought his car with a home equity loan. Look how long some new car loans are today, making it easy to drive cars that many can ill afford. The status lure can be a trap. People also buy used high end cars and can't afford any significant repairs that do come. If you like a car and have the money, it's the best situation. And do not concern yourself with what others may think of you.