BMW of North America is introducing new mandatory dealership standards that will cost its 339 dealerships around $2.8 billion to comply with them over the next four years. BMW intends to give its showrooms the friendliness of an Apple store as well as offer them the technology and give them the chance to talk to experts who can explain its complicated and growing product line.
According to Ludwig Willisch, chief executive of BMW of North America One, the vital component of the new standards is the increased use of video to highlight BMW's lineup, which has increased from around 60 three years ago to over 100 today. "You cannot have all the cars and all the variants at the dealership, but you can impressively show them on a screen," he said.
Dealers will have to employ so-called “BMW geniuses” who could explain features and technology without pressuring customers to buy. As for the purchase process, the customer will be turned over to a salesperson.
"If we look at the retail environment in the automotive world, it did not change much since we started selling cars," remarked Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing. He quipped that while the retail world has been changing dramatically outside, the dealership "has not been moving at the pace people are expecting."
Damon Shelly, head of the BMW National Dealer Forum and owner of Irvine BMW and Irvine Mini in Irvine, Calif., and Shelly BMW in Buena Park, Calif., remarked that the carmaker has extensively discussed the dealership standards with them, and the perception is that the carmaker is "trying to be more reasonable." He added that BMW’s leadership has realized that the global standards and design story has changed and “they have to bring the U.S. in alignment with the worldwide design." [source: automotive news - sub. required]