A View from the Top

by Ian Dobie

In the very distant past, once people started living together in larger groups there was a need to associate, despite having no ties or kinship. Like minded groups “Clubbed” together for mutual benefit, exactly as the founders of our club did in 1951. Without a network of BMW dealerships, apart from self-reliance there was a need for mutual aid and friendship. The club grew to cover the UK and in numbers to 6,500+ by 2001, with an administrative infrastructure of today. Shortly after the 50th anniversary the membership started to wane, stabilised briefly, but then continued to fall to the 3,400 of today. Why, has been the subject of much debate and hypothesis particularly when motorcycle sales have steadily increased. Recruitment is not easy, but we annually recruit reasonable numbers to counter natural wastage. So, the conundrum is, what has changed that affects membership?

Whilst regular attenders thoroughly enjoy the club and renew, the majority of new recruits rarely take advantage of what is on offer and fail to renew. There are a number of possible answers: modern work patterns and life balance, communication and the millennial’s lack of commitment. The multiplex of available means of communication today has both served us well and possibly worked against us. When you can order a meal, plan a holiday or arrange absolutely anything you desire with a few keystrokes, why join a club?

The lack of commitment is another reason; golf clubs have declined (18 to 34-year olds down by 30% over the last 20 years). The same is true of many other organisations. Each may be more affected by one particular facet, but with a few notable exceptions there is noticeable decline in general memberships. BMW’s Worldwide survey of clubs came to the conclusion that around 50% of current BMW clubs would cease to exist in the not too distant future.

So, what can be done? BMW could actively support clubs and that need not be costly in their budget terms. You only need to look at the financial support of Harley Davidson. We could raise our fees to increase member benefits. We could allow membership to fall away and become smaller, more elitist. A smaller club would not need such a top heavy management structure. Past efforts to reduce the National Committee have failed on the grounds of democracy! We could dissolve the current club structure and form a federation of BMW clubs. Environmental concerns are likely to be the next major impact, but I think the club will continue to exist for a good few years yet if we can just accept some changes.


Originally posted 2020-03-25 18:23:54.


Author: drdrsteve