BMW advancing 'product geniuses' plans as Apple's retail model extends into automotive

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2014
One of the automotive industry's most entrenched stereotypes is the car salesman pitching the hard sell, but manufacturers like BMW are taking steps to modernize their approach to consumer interaction by following Apple's lead.

BMW
A BMW "product genius" uses an iPad and display to show off the company's latest models.
Source: The Wall Street Journal


BMW announced its forward-thinking plan to integrate technology in the showroom in 2013, saying that its dealerships would one day boast iPads, monitors and "product geniuses." Now, over one year later, the project is finally taking shape, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Expanding on its initial plans, BMW wants to do away with showroom cubicles and the usual dealership layout, replacing everything with a more customer-friendly experience. Most importantly, employees can be characterized as "definitely, definitely not salesmen," said the head of BMW's sales and marketing team, Ian Robertson.

The new route is one borrowed from Apple's brick-and-mortar Apple Stores. Replacing high-pressure sales staff with young, knowledgable workers, Apple's retail model "shows" rather than "tells" customers about the company's products. Some BMW dealers plan to recruit "product geniuses" from local colleges.

Also like the Apple Store, BMW's initiative calls for showrooms and employees to be kitted out with the latest Internet-connected tech, such as iPads and Apple TVs, for quick specification referencing and on-demand demonstrations.

Genius Bar


Part of the push toward a digital sales flow is the glut of car models and trim levels BMW will be rolling out this year. Mark Rikess, CEO of auto consulting firm Rikess Group, believes there may soon be two types of dealerships: those offering a traditional service-minded experience and new low-overhead locations that will rely heavily on Internet-based sales.

The streamlined dealership Rikess describes would fit well with BMW's new initiative and could solve a number of logistics problems.

According to the Peter Miles, BMW North America's executive vice president of operations, the automaker will have about 100 different variations on offer in the U.S. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to keep such a large number of vehicles at each dealership, so BMW plans to create regional fleets of demo cars for potential customers.

BMW is not alone in its movement to a friendlier auto showroom floor. For example, Volkswagen's Audi deployed 2,000 iPads in its dealerships to assist with car presentations, reports the WSJ. The luxury brand may take things a step further by introducing "virtual stores" where customers would be able to customize different models on giant wall-sized displays.

American carmaker General Motors is also working to get technology on the showroom with so-called "connection centers" that offer interactive tech support via tablets and displays hooked up to an Apple TV or Google's Chromecast.

"Think of them as our version of the Apple Genius Bar," said Alicia Boler-Davis, GM's SVP of global quality and customer experience.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member

    Last car I bought was all researched on the Internet, went to the dealer who had the demonstrator I wanted, the longest part was waiting for the trade in valuation of my old car, paid in full on a card in and out in half an hour, picked the car up three days later.

     

    Saved $14,000 by not messing around with useless time wasting crap.

  • Reply 2 of 13
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    hill60 wrote: »
    Last car I bought was all researched on the Internet, went to the dealer who had the demonstrator I wanted, the longest part was waiting for the trade in valuation of my old car, paid in full on a card in and out in half an hour, picked the car up three days later.

    Saved $14,000 by not messing around with useless time wasting crap.

    I only found out after I bought my car that I could have gone though my auto insurance company for a better deal. I am not a haggler. I hate the notion of it. Give me a price and I'll decide if it's what I want to pay.


    PS: I bought my car in cash (mostly change from robbing pinball machines) and they all kept saying I could save thousands off the cash price if got a loan, which admittedly had a 0% APR rate. If I had known then what I know now I should have done that than paid it off after a month, or even keep it going to help increase my credit rating, but it sounded like a scam at the time.
  • Reply 3 of 13
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,976member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    PS: I bought my car in cash (mostly change from robbing pinball machines)

    Amateur, any proper thief knows that the real money is in robbing gumball machines. :lol:
  • Reply 4 of 13

    So does this mean one haggles with the Business Manager or that BMW will be implementing firm, non-negotiable pricing?

  • Reply 5 of 13

    I wish BMW would adopt Apple's pricing policy here in Australia (US price x exchange rate + 10% GST).

     

    That would lead to a 328i being $42,000 instead of the $68,900 we get slugged :no:

  • Reply 6 of 13
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member
    hentaiboy wrote: »
    I wish BMW would adopt Apple's pricing policy here in Australia (US price x exchange rate + 10% GST).

    That would lead to a 328i being $42,000 instead of the $68,900 we get slugged :no:

    That might change in three years, when all we'll have is imports.
  • Reply 7 of 13

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

     Replacing high-pressure sales staff with young, knowledgable workers ...

     

    The "knowledgeable worker" is becoming more and more important at BMW dealers.  The company has filled every niche and niches between those niches with all manner of cars and trucks.  There's the 1 Series, 2 Series (this Spring), 3 Series, 3 Series GT, 4 Series, 4 Series Gran Coupe, 5 Series, 6 Series, 6 Series Gran Coupe, 7 Series, X3, X5, and X6.  Not to mention the various "real M" and "M performance" variants of many of the Series cars and trucks.  All of which can be had with various interior colors and materials, entertainment and connectivity packages, M Performance Package dealer-installed components, floor mats, metallic paint, etc. etc.

     

    Oh, and now there's the new 'i' brand: the i3 and i8.  (You saw the i8 Concept prototype in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.")  So I imagine there's an enormous amount of explaining to do at BMW dealerships these days.

  • Reply 8 of 13
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    hentaiboy wrote: »
    I wish BMW would adopt Apple's pricing policy here in Australia (US price x exchange rate + 10% GST).

    That would lead to a 328i being $42,000 instead of the $68,900 we get slugged :no:
    Damn, I can get an M3 with that amount here in the US.
  • Reply 9 of 13
    Try living in Thailand 300% tax that $42,000 becomes $126,000
  • Reply 10 of 13
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,976member
    hentaiboy wrote: »
    I wish BMW would adopt Apple's pricing policy here in Australia (US price x exchange rate + 10% GST).

    That would lead to a 328i being $42,000 instead of the $68,900 we get slugged :no:

    Except they're a German company. Exchange rate would be in Euros.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    And the U.S. one comes with 48 month/50,000 mile warranty, including all servicing.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    mvigodmvigod Posts: 172member
    Take another page from Steve Jobs playbook and trim down the models and sub-model options so the choices are simpler. The lineup at BMW is getting absurdly large right now. Model creep and sub-model creep has gotten out of control.

    I'm a big bmw fan and own one but while searching for a 2nd one the myriad choices are confusing and take much more time to weigh the subtle differences between many of the similar models or models within models
  • Reply 13 of 13
    mj webmj web Posts: 918member
    After buying a BMW M Sport last year I had a notion BMW need to do exactly this.
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