Monday, April 30, 2018

Opinion: Bogward Previewed at the Malaysia Autoshow 2018 - Thoughts on the Bogward BX5 & BX7 Models

Bogward, the recently resurfaced German brand has shown its face here in Malaysia at the recent Malaysia Autoshow 2018 where they previewed their BX5 and BX7 models. This the the second time the Bogward name has been used, the first, and original Bogward started producing cars under various nameplates like Goliath, Hansa Lloyd and also Bogward from the 1920s to about 1963 when the company was forced into liquidation. Their most famous model was the Bogward Isabella, which was produced in both sedan and coupe forms.  

Bogward Isabella 1961 - By Lglswe - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Of course, when Bogward slid into foreclosure, it was a lifetime ago and many of you readers out there were not even born yet. I wasn't born yet but as I was a 70's child, I did manage to catch a glimpse of one years ago when I was a small boy growing up in Taiping. Of course, by then the Bogward I saw was already twenty years old at least. Yes, the brand has been dead for quite a while and it is just mere memories even to people who are sixty years old today. Not many are in Malaysia left (Maybe two, or three if I am not mistaken). 

One of the reasons why Bogward of old foreclosed was the fact that the company did not keep production costs in check and the company did not have economics of scale compared to other German companies like Volkswagen. The late 1950s and early 1960s was a period where industries were finally coming back to full steam over in Europe as rebuilding after World War II was almost complete. Economies were coming back on line and people were actually beginning to start living their lives again. In Bogward's case, keeping old production standards as well as not believing in using modern creditor solutions or the banks meant that Bogward was delaying payments to their suppliers who then got fed up and foreclosed on the company. It may have been a premature death due to incompetent credit management, but Bogward died nonetheless.

This resurrection of the Bogward name was done in 2005 (or thereabouts - as some said this was done earlier in the late 1990s) when Christian Bogward, the grandson of founder Carl F.W. Bogward, decided to start the brand again. The new Bogward company was registered in 2008 as a registered company in Switzerland with operations based in Stuttgart, Germany . Some say that back then, it was just an idea waiting for some investors to happen. 

That investment came from China of course, as with most new ventures these days. China money is everywhere and Bogward's revival came on song sometime in the mid 2010s with their first models displayed in 2015. Under the BAIC owned Beiqi Foton Motor, the brand has developed their cars and now has three models, the BX5, BX6 and the BX7. All are Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) and were first sold in China. Now someone (well, some of the people which were involved in the Go Auto Group best known for bringing in the Haval brand here) has brought the brand over from China to Malaysia and they've previewed two of the SUVs here to gauge the response of the public. So if you guys out there show a positive sign, this brand will be making its local debut soon.

Bogward BX5 

The Bogward BX5 is the smaller of the two SUVs shown. The BX5 is a compact SUV powered by a 1.4liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine in 20TGDI guise you see here. It has a larger 1.8 liter variant also called the 25TGDI. The 1.4liter variant you see here makes 150hp and 250Nm torque. It has a 6 speed automatic transmission and is front wheel drive. The larger 25T version has all-wheel drive. 

From the looks of it, the BX5's styling on the outside is actually pretty good to look at. It looks very European in its execution and a very prominent front end with a large grille. From the rear, there is that Audi-Skoda- Volkswagen-Porsche like styling to it. I cannot fault the exterior styling as it does look good albeit not that original. But somehow, this SUV mould keeps repeating itself in most China sold vehicles. As if the formula for successful SUV design is to take a Porsche Macan or an Audi Q5 and reinvent it, a little.

Inside, the BX5 actually betrays its entry level origins. The BX5 is Bogward's entry level model. It is the smallest Bogward around and whilst the overall dashboard styling looks nice, it is the materials used that bring down the interior to sub-premium standards. Nice design but cheap plastics is the cue here. You get that nice large information screen and all the gadgets, but not the premium feel of a properly fitted interior. On that note, The other China car sold in the market which is around the same size is the Haval H2. That SUV has a more premium feeling interior as all the switchgear and materials used feel nice to the touch. 

Bogward BX7

As for the Bogward BX7 - a 2.0liter turbocharged 225hp 7 DCT (twin clutch gearbox) AWD model (according to specs I got online), you get the same Porsche-esque styling outside. Slightly flatter than a Macan but you get the point. It is a larger sized compact compared to the small sized BX5 and it is also a five seater model. It reminds me of a Skoda on the outside from the front due to its large grille and as I mentioned, the Porsche-esque styling. It looks good but it does suffer from being somewhat generic in some ways because of that Euro-standard styling. 

The interior however seems to be quite a disappointment if Bogward says that this is supposed to be a luxury crossover. I am just not feeling the premium-ness here. The materials used for the dashboard and also leather used for the seats seem premium enough. The seats especially so with the diamond pattern quilting and the use of soft touch plastics inside (unlike the BX5) is welcome. The main item that brings down this cabin is the steering wheel. Somehow it does not convey any premium feel to it. It feels like a B segment car steering wheel with some local leather wrapped on it. Like a Toyota Vios' steering wheel for something touted as premium. 

There are some bits here and there on the centre console which also feel cheap. The cabin seems to be a mix of budget bits and some premium bits. Granted, the quilted seats, the large infotainment display and the full screen instrument cluster does grab your attention right away but its when you do the touch and feel test that things fall apart. 

As a chap who likes his luxury, this isn't premium enough. My benchmark for not so premium branded interiors who are premium in feel and touch are the newest larger cars from Peugeot. These look and feel premium but they still are a mass market brand. This BX7 feels a step under premium because of its overall execution of materials used. So it looks good, but once you look at things properly, it isn't what it seems.

So what the heck is Bogward then?

It seems to be touted as a premium like brand by some. 

The representatives may not think so but the marketing (or lack of it at the motorshow) seems to suggest that. I personally think that this is another China car brand with its origins in Germany. It isn't German per se in terms of overall quality (of the materials and feel). It seems to be a German brand with totally China based underpinnings.

Maybe the reason for this is the fact that these Bogwards are the first models produced by the company ever. The BX7 was first sold in 2016 whilst the BX5 in 2017. The brand is actually fresh out of the oven. Whilst they appear to benefit from BAIC technology, one would also take into account that Beiqi Foton is the BAIC subsidiary involved in this joint venture and they are known for commercial vehicles. With that fact, one can assume that the company is still on that steep learning curve in terms of car making.

Now would that make Bogward an interesting ownership proposition here in Malaysia? Well, the price must be right for the quality offered of course. It would have to be locally assembled to make sure it is priced right and if the distributors want to sell it as a premium SUV or crossover vehicle, the Malaysian specced cars may need better quality materials inside. Furthermore, price is also important because of the lack of brand awareness actually.

At this moment, the cars are NOT premium at all. I'd pay under RM70,000 for the 1.4liter BX5 and maybe, just maybe RM110,000 for the 2.0liter BX7. And then, I'd wait for year end sales too so that I get even more discounts and maybe a free 4K TV,  tinting, servicing, a maid, dog, cat or pet elephant thrown in by the dealerships. 

Who knows. But hey, I am a fussy fella and if the cars are to be marketed as premium or luxury, my benchmark is set pretty high. So these, whilst they may look pretty good, are not there yet.

Bogward BX5


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