BMW’s North American division is set to begin rolling out a massive overhaul to their roughly 400 dealerships over the next four years, drawing inspiration from Apple’s highly successful retail store model. The German auto company will be throwing out the traditional white and silver interiors filled with cubicles for a warmer open showroom with large video screens and ‘BMW geniuses’.
Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing, commented on the need for change in a statement to Automotive News, saying “if we look at the retail environment in the automotive world, it did not change much since we started selling cars.” BMW realized that just about everywhere else the retail world has been dramatically changing, but car dealerships have “not been moving at the pace people are expecting. We are reformatting and adjusting to customer needs.”
The ever-expanding lineup of vehicles BMW is selling in the US is another major factor in the need for change. Only a few years ago BMW had about 50 to 60 variants of their vehicles, but now that number has just about doubled with nearly 100 variations that customers can choose from.
BMW’s goal is to create regional fleets where customers can go to take a test drive of the car they are interested in instead of each dealership stocking more cars than they need in anticipation of what the customer will be looking for. This will not only free up space in the showroom, but also on the crowded lots in front of the stores.
Potential car buyers will instead be guided through their options on interactive screens with the help of geniuses that will be young, knowledgeable and tech-savvy, replacing the high-pressure salespeople you find in dealerships today. Once a customer is ready to buy, then the salesperson will step in to complete the deal.
Dealerships that have not been renovated in the last six years will be the first to begin updating the stores later this year. Within four years, all dealerships will be required to change over to the new design and sales methods.