If Manhattan’s masters of the universe are not buying baubles for their partners on Valentine’s Day, what other obvious signs of belt-tightening does one see on Wall Street these days? I visited the Street’s BMW dealership—another product of the boom—to see if bankers are skimping on their own toys as well.
The showroom was completely empty at noon, and I was (of course) referred to PR by two bored-looking employees. One did acknowledge that the BMW 3-series (that’s code for relatively affordable) is the best-selling model at the moment, meaning thrift is trumping flash in the epicenter of conspicuous consumption.
BMW media relations declined to comment for the article because they do not want to get involved in any negative publicity surrounding Wall Street bonuses. When pressed, the PR representative said that sales are still good in the Financial District.
I asked a group of suited young men smoking cigarettes across the street whether the dealership is usually this empty.
“You should see it around bonus time,” one said. “Most of the firms have already given out bonuses, but Deutsche Bank is handing theirs out on Friday. You should go back then, but say an unnamed source told you that.”
The German-based automaker reported a 14 percent earnings increase in 2007, but did not break down sales in the fourth quarter. BMW sold 1.3 million cars in 2007, 100,000 more than the previous year, due to the popularity of its 3-series. The United States remained its second-largest market outside Germany.