BMW is planning on a bold new method of selling cars online with the launch of its electric i3 city car and i8 sports car next year, the first models from the automaker’s new i sub-brand for environmentally friendly vehicles.
BMW will sell cars over the Web for the first time as the world’s largest maker of luxury vehicles seeks an inexpensive way to reach more buyers to recoup spending on its electric models. A direct online sales platform for BMW’s new I sub-brand will be unique in an industry where, outside of small-scale experiments, competitors leave Internet orders for cars to dealers. BMW’s range of strategies for the models, including a roaming sales force backing a limited showroom network, reflects the challenge carmakers face as low-emission vehicles trickle into dealerships to sluggish demand after years of development. “There is considerable risk in BMW’s approach of promoting the I brand so prominently,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Science in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. “There is the image risk, if they don’t succeed as quickly as expected, and then there’s the main risk of costs, which can only be countered with high deliveries.” BMW is opening the I models’ first showroom today in London, although only prototype cars and informational materials will be displayed at first because the vehicles themselves won’t go on sale before next year. – via Bloomberg