For the first time ever, BMW will sell some of its cars online – and it’s the electric vehicles like the BMW i3 and BMW i8 that have spurred the changes. BMW’s i brand vehicles will be sold online. The first on-sale target date for an i brand vehicle is late 2013, so it will be some time before we know if the strategy is beneficial.
BMW is spending roughly $3 billion to bring the i3 and i8 electric vehicles to market, so if they can save an estimated 5 to 7 percent through online sales compared to a traditional showroom that would be big savings. Though savings of that magnitude sound great, the details of how the online sales will work are not yet defined. How will potential BMW i3 buyers take a test drive? A roaming sales force could be used, or BMW could do what every other mass-produced electric vehicle has done so far – have people buy it without a test drive. That’s what Nissan did with the Leaf, Chevy did with the Volt and Mitsubishi did with the iMiev. Have a few well-respected EV enthusiasts take test drives and publish their findings.
Some of the current BMW dealers will be allowed to sell the i brand vehicles on their lot as long as they are selling a lot of BMWs already and have space for the i brand information displays. That’s somewhere around 20 percent of all BMW dealers.
BMW’s stance is that the models should produce earnings from the start, sales chief Robertson said.
“We clearly, as a company, go into any product launch with the view of making profit, which is no different with the I brand,” Robertson said. “This is a car line just as every other car line, and we intend to make profit from Day 1.