Are BMW Client Advisers in trouble? BMW moving away from traditional sales

by Bernie McGroarty on February 21, 2014, 11:56 am
”solongsalesmen”

BMW is heading toward thinning the number of sales people (client advisors) and vehicles at their dealerships, in order to modernize and streamline the car buying process.

There has been more talk recently about BMW, as well as other auto manufacturers, moving their dealerships into the digital age. Gone will be the days of vehicle filled showrooms and salesmen pressuring you to buy a car. A new program from BMW would replace them with new technology and 'product geniuses.' The 'product geniuses' are employees who will utilize new technology, such as flat screen displays and iPads on which to show vehicles, options and other helpful information, much like how things work at an Apple Store. These employees would be there just to educate the customer, rather than trying to close a sale. A recent Wall Street Journal Article quoted BMW's sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson saying, these employees are "definitely, definitely not salesmen." This makes a lot of sense, since most are so used to online browsing. The customer would have that familiar feel, with someone there to explain the technical bits.

For test rides and for those who still like to touch and see a vehicle in person, there would still be some on hand, but not as many as we see in showrooms and lots today. 'BMW's overhaul aims to create regional fleets where customers can go to test drive cars, allowing stores to stock fewer cars, said Peter Miles, BMW North America's executive vice president of operations.'

The idea sound better and better each time I read about it. Less cramped showrooms, and less sales pressure from sales people. Now to work more on the dreaded paperwork part.

What do you think about a switch from salesmen to 'product geniuses'?

Source Wall Street Journal


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33 responses to Are BMW Client Advisers in trouble? BMW moving away from traditional sales

Morningcoffee22 commented:
February 23, 2014, 9:35 am

Bad Idea.
hotrod2448 commented:
February 23, 2014, 6:45 pm

Seems more like marketing putting a positive spin on a way for them to simultaneously cut overhead through less staff and vehicles and decrease aggressive discounting of vehicles in dealer stock than a real paradigm shift like Tesla has with their dealer network.

I also envision it being more like Best Buy "here let me read you the box" than the Apple store.
LAS2002 commented:
February 24, 2014, 3:22 pm

I lived in Japan for 6 years and there were virtually no dealers with inventory. A representative of Nissan (or?) would come to the office with catalogs, colors, and options. That's how you ordered there and my recollection is it was 4 weeks or so to get the car delivered to you. I left Japan in 1998 and I doubt this system has changed much tree.
sea6speed commented:
February 24, 2014, 3:26 pm

It would be a good way to move he brand upscale. You go to a bmw dealer now and the only difference between the sales people there vs Kia is they are better groomed.


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Morningcoffee22 commented:
February 24, 2014, 5:04 pm

We enjoy going to our local BMW dealership. Dave Walter BMW in Akron Ohio. We like to look at, touch, sit in the different cars. The dealership doesn't mind. We have leased 4 Bimmers in the last 7 years. We enjoy meeting other owners and discussing our cars. Our dealership does a car wash, hot dogs, cookies every Saturday morning.
We enjoy the interaction we experience with other owners, sales people, service people and management. We have never experienced any sales pressure at all from anyone at the dealership. This is really what being "social" means. Not Facebook, in our view.
BTW, we sat in a white M235i coupe hard top with sunroof on Saturday at the dealership. I happen to be 6'5". What we found was the car is cut too low for me. Seat all the way down, partially reclined, my head touches the sun roof. That car is made for anyone up to 6'2" not more, in my opinion. Nice looking car tho.
tim330i commented:
February 24, 2014, 5:10 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Morningcoffee22 View Post
What we found was the car is cut too low for me. Seat all the way down, partially reclined, my head touches the sun roof. That car is made for anyone up to 6'2" not more, in my opinion. Nice looking car tho.
Do you have a really long torso? I am also 6'5" and reviewed the M235i -

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=747639

The headroom was so good I forgot to mention anything about it. I didn't think anyone would have trouble. We were on the track so I had correct seating position and could break my wrists over the wheel without pulling my shoulders off the seat.

I was presently surprised with the headroom considering how small the M235i. I find it hard to believe you had trouble. I remember having a couple inches to spare.

Tim
Morningcoffee22 commented:
February 24, 2014, 6:00 pm

I do have a lot of my height in the torso. I didn't consider that. With the seat all the way down and with the seat partially reclined still had a problem. Reclined more and cleared the roof. Still, can't drive that way with the seat reclined so much. Didn't think about where the height was coming from but you do have a good point.
The other issue my wife and I noticed was I need to duck down way low to enter the car without hitting my head on the roof while entering. Same issue with our son's 2014 328i. These cars are cut low. We have a 2013 135is soft top convert. That car is a bubble-top we call it. I have a good 5" headroom and do not need to duck like crazy to enter. Seat back up in driving position no problem.
tim330i commented:
February 24, 2014, 6:05 pm

It must be your torso. I fit in the F30 328i just fine, probably 4" of headroom to spare. For most people I think they'll find the 2 series has plenty of headroom. Sorry

Tim
Morningcoffee22 commented:
February 24, 2014, 6:14 pm

It cuts down on our choices for sure. Also, as auto companies change their products to meet CAFE requirements cars will be losing weight and some height to cut wind resistance. We might be forced in future to get an F-150. What a thought! :-)
Wagons_Rock commented:
February 24, 2014, 8:37 pm

Regional test drive fleets and CAs who really know the details are good with me. I'm sure there are good CAs out there, but on the couple of test drives I took recently the CA was painfully ignorant, and for the enthusiast who has already knows a lot about the product line, it can be a waste of time.
cwsqbm commented:
February 24, 2014, 10:24 pm

Just showing things on a screen is no better than looking at a website. I go to dealerships to actually sit in the cars, get a feel for the ergonomics, and then drive the cars.

There'd be good reasons for small dealerships (with service centers, showrooms and demo cars, but no stock) but with the bulk of inventory held by BMWNA in regional distrubtion centers. It'd give customers more access to options and colors that the dealerships might not normally stock, and the cars could be there in a day or two. The dealerships would benefit by not having to carry large inventorys, and BMWNA could operate on more of a JIT delivery system. To go away from the current setup would also being going away from the current "what do I have to do to get you in this car TODAY" mentality that I've long hated. The problem with that is many people are very impatient. They want to walk into a dealership, find the car they want with the equipment they want, and take it home ASAP. Even waiting an extra day would loose sales, and dealerships would be really resistant.
opem commented:
February 25, 2014, 4:00 pm

A well-informed BMW buyer can, at times, know more about the vehicle than the CA (how many actually own a bimmer?), so slimming of sales staff is a welcome change--just pass on some of the savings to the consumer, BMW, and don't keep it all to yourself.
STE92VE commented:
February 26, 2014, 10:17 am

This is nothing new to me. I often thought that with the information available on the internet, most BMW enthusiasts know more about the vehicle that they are interested in than the CA. Taking this plan one step further, I would like to see vehicles ordered by the customer directly from the factory with delivery to a distribution center like ED or PCD. Cut out the middleman, pass the savings onto the customer and just have service centers handle maintenance and repairs.
Morningcoffee22 commented:
February 26, 2014, 10:18 am

You have a beautiful car. Forgot to mention. Enjoy!
sixpot_simon commented:
March 14, 2014, 6:28 am

Sounds fine to me. It's no huge inconvenience to book a test drive a few days in advance, as opposed to expecting every dealer to keep a fleet of demonstrator cars.

If it helps them stay profitable and building fun cars, I'm all for it!
falar commented:
March 14, 2014, 12:21 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by STE92VE View Post
This is nothing new to me. I often thought that with the information available on the internet, most BMW enthusiasts know more about the vehicle that they are interested in than the CA. Taking this plan one step further, I would like to see vehicles ordered by the customer directly from the factory with delivery to a distribution center like ED or PCD. Cut out the middleman, pass the savings onto the customer and just have service centers handle maintenance and repairs.
Agreed and would LOVE to cut out the middleman also.

I will say that my local BMW dealership isn't the kind of high pressure purchase-a-car-today-or-else outfit that is often described here. They're pretty laid back and are just happy to show you whatever it is you want to see and don't care if you leave without buying a car.

This does seem more like an overhead reduction move though and if you're going to have to go to a "regional distribution center" for test drives and viewing actual inventory then just cutting out the middleman altogether makes even more sense.
STE92VE commented:
March 14, 2014, 12:54 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by falar View Post
Agreed and would LOVE to cut out the middleman also.

I will say that my local BMW dealership isn't the kind of high pressure purchase-a-car-today-or-else outfit
Most of the local BMW dealers here are that way as well. In fact, most of the time they have the attitude of if you don't want to buy from me, OK, someone else will. I've walked out of a few dealers and they didn't even attempt to negotiate a deal. But lo and behold, a few days later, you will be barraged with follow up calls from someone else at the dealership asking if everything went OK and what can they do for you. If they would have shown as much concern for your business at the time you were there, they may have gained a customer. But then again, not all buyers are as astute as we...
bighorns commented:
March 14, 2014, 1:21 pm

I only see this working if a dealership can take test drive appointments so that they have time to get a certain optioned vehicle on their lot for a test drive. How many times have we seen posts from people asking about certain option packages on cars because they can't find one to test drive? It reminds me of how, years ago, when I was into dirt bikes, the only way to find out about a potential purchase was magazine tests, or actually finding someone who had the bike you were interested in that was willing to let you try it. If I had to do this with a car I would probably just walk away.
STE92VE commented:
March 14, 2014, 1:54 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by bighorns View Post
I only see this working if a dealership can take test drive appointments so that they have time to get a certain optioned vehicle on their lot for a test drive. How many times have we seen posts from people asking about certain option packages on cars because they can't find one to test drive?
I don't see this as an issue since currently dealers only inventory cars that "they" deem as saleable and that certainly is not going to change. They currently do offer test drives of various engine and tire combinations which allow the tester to get a feel of how a vehicle handles and performs. For example, when I bought the E92, not one dealer inventoried a 6MT. Would I have liked to test drive one before I made my purchase? Sure! Did it stop me from ordering it with the 6MT? Absolutely not! Dealers also don't order inventory with Xenons but I've ordered them with every BMW. Same thing applies to any of the "less popular" options. Which reminds me of the time I visited a MB dealer. Every car on their lot had leatherette or whatever they call their pleather material. It was explained to me if I wanted actual leather, it would have to be a factory order. I didn't order a MB so it didn't make a difference one way or the other.

That's one of the services this forum and people you know that own BMWs afford prospective buyers. A sharing of information that helps with the buying decision.
bighorns commented:
March 14, 2014, 2:05 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by STE92VE View Post
I don't see this as an issue since currently dealers only inventory cars that "they" deem as saleable and that certainly is not going to change. They currently do offer test drives of various engine and tire combinations which allow the tester to get a feel of how a vehicle handles and performs. For example, when I bought the E92, not one dealer inventoried a 6MT. Would I have liked to test drive one before I made my purchase? Sure! Did it stop me from ordering it with the 6MT? Absolutely not! Dealers also don't order inventory with Xenons but I've ordered them with every BMW. Same thing applies to any of the "less popular" options. Which reminds me of the time I visited a MB dealer. Every car on their lot had leatherette or whatever they call their pleather material. It was explained to me if I wanted actual leather, it would have to be a factory order. I didn't order a MB so it didn't make a difference one way or the other.

That's one of the services this forum and people you know that own BMWs afford prospective buyers. A sharing of information that helps with the buying decision.
That makes sense for all of the things that you mention here, but with all of these new suspension options I'm not sure that I could order something without trying it.

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STE92VE commented:
March 14, 2014, 2:20 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by bighorns View Post
That makes sense for all of the things that you mention here, but with all of these new suspension options I'm not sure that I could order something without trying it.
May not make a difference....the E92 was supposed to have the sport suspension as standard equipment but they didn't build it that way. Didn't know there was something wrong with my build until I read some posts on the forums.

That being said, as you mentioned there are a multitude of suspension options, do you really think dealers are going to order them on spec?
bighorns commented:
March 14, 2014, 2:28 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by The HACK View Post
You have to do an open and close image tag, and they're not html tags, they're VB Script tags. Not sure how I can demonstrate this, but it's open bracket ([) img close bracket (]), url of the image, then open bracket ([) /img close bracket (]).

As far as Bimmer.org goes, I'm behind Alan. I think he is correct in that once we get some outside moderators in there most of the problem will disappear. Not saying all, because the E46 M3 board does have an outside moderator but you still get your fair share of flames and out of control threads...It all depends on the moderator's style of dictatorship.

Not certain about making this forum "exclusive". E46Fanatics started out pretty good but once it went exclusive a few of the personalities take over and you get a very ^^^^genous board...Everyone expressing the SAME opinion all the time. At least on bimmer.org you get enough fresh blood daily that you'll get a mixed bag of personalities and opinions.

I actually kinda like how Bimmer.org software works, where you can reply to individual and specific threads instead of trying to look below for topic summary and stuff.
No. That's why the dealers need the option of sharing one that they can bring in for scheduled test drives. Just a thought.

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falar commented:
March 14, 2014, 2:48 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by bighorns View Post
I only see this working if a dealership can take test drive appointments so that they have time to get a certain optioned vehicle on their lot for a test drive. How many times have we seen posts from people asking about certain option packages on cars because they can't find one to test drive? It reminds me of how, years ago, when I was into dirt bikes, the only way to find out about a potential purchase was magazine tests, or actually finding someone who had the bike you were interested in that was willing to let you try it. If I had to do this with a car I would probably just walk away.
My local dealer does not even stock 335s or 550s let alone manual transmissions, DHP, or really any well-optioned car. They completely cater to the "I'm here for a status symbol" crowd that is just looking for the badge and the lowest possible lease payment for it.

Without reading posts on this site I likely would not have ordered DHP or the automatic transmission.
Morningcoffee22 commented:
March 15, 2014, 7:52 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by 530i_simon View Post
Sounds fine to me. It's no huge inconvenience to book a test drive a few days in advance, as opposed to expecting every dealer to keep a fleet of demonstrator cars.

If it helps them stay profitable and building fun cars, I'm all for it!
Of course you are.
AzNMpower32 commented:
March 15, 2014, 1:12 pm

Perhaps this is a combination of my younger age (in my mid 20s) and experience with sales in other countries, but I do not understand why the sales model in the US works as it does. When I go to the dealer, all I am interested is in test driving a model/demonstrator, seeing it in person, and getting my final questions answered- usually more about warranty and delivery times than the actual product itself.

I expect to place an order for the exact configuration and model I want when the time is right. I fully expect to wait a few weeks for delivery, and the salesman to do a proper "delivery" process, not unlike BMW Welt.

This is the way I bought my prior mountain bike (my 2nd largest purchase in dollar amount): research myself, find a dealer, make an order, take delivery 4 weeks later. And in fact I have moved already from the dealer model altogether for my current and future bikes: I bought my current DH bike direct from the German manufacturer sight unseen after research (very similar to Tesla's no-dealer model), ordered online and paid via wire transfer, took delivery multiple weeks later. This cuts out the middleman and as a result I have a bargain of a deal on my current bike.
Shredjim commented:
March 19, 2014, 1:42 pm

Car Sales without car sales people is a joke. I just went through purchasing a new X1 and had a great dealership experience - at one of the two local BMW dealerships in my area. No pressure - I needed help to validate which car I wanted and determine which options I could get for the budget I had established. The CA was great and knowledgeable about all of the features for the price, etc. Then he helped me get the car/color/options I wanted that involved a trade with another dealer out of our area. I was also able to weed through the various add/on packages offered by the finance gal and only got the extended warranty. Even though people look down on the sales profession in general - Willy Loman is not going away any time soon!
Morningcoffee22 commented:
March 19, 2014, 3:02 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shredjim View Post
Car Sales without car sales people is a joke. I just went through purchasing a new X1 and had a great dealership experience - at one of the two local BMW dealerships in my area. No pressure - I needed help to validate which car I wanted and determine which options I could get for the budget I had established. The CA was great and knowledgeable about all of the features for the price, etc. Then he helped me get the car/color/options I wanted that involved a trade with another dealer out of our area. I was also able to weed through the various add/on packages offered by the finance gal and only got the extended warranty. Even though people look down on the sales profession in general - Willy Loman is not going away any time soon!
Agree!
anE934fun commented:
March 23, 2014, 3:13 am

I must have missed something - isn't a large part of the BMW experience about driving the car? Last I checked, you can't drive a car on an iPad (or any computer for that matter).

Also, dealers are about instant gratification (getting the car you just have to have quickly), which is why there has to be inventory on hand or a flatbed trip away.
Mike@GraysonBMW commented:
March 25, 2014, 2:29 pm

I feel I should chime in on this. As far as incompetent Client Advisors, I can speak personally for our staff and say that we have the lowest attrition rate of any local or even regional car dealership (Everyone at my dealership has been with the company over 3 years) most of us have held management positions with other dealerships and we know our product inside and out. I have mandatory BMW training in GA and NC for at least a month out of the year including a couple days minimum track time with the vehicles and trained driving instructors. I have worked for other luxury car brands and the training wasn't even close to BMW's hands on approach. Of course, there are exceptions to everything. As far as the BMW Genius initiative, it is dealer opt in at this point to have a one or two appointed geniuses on staff in order to answer some of the more technical questions, but mainly they are there to sell accessories. They are appointing Client Advisors to this position as well, it's not an initiative to phase CA's out. They still expect us to be well informed and very well trained. Also, the entire sales staff here drives BMW's, with the Center Employee deals they give us (Along with my dealerships demo program) we would be silly not to.
bighorns commented:
March 25, 2014, 2:38 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike@GraysonBMW View Post
I feel I should chime in on this. As far as incompetent Client Advisors, I can speak personally for our staff and say that we have the lowest attrition rate of any local or even regional car dealership (Everyone at my dealership has been with the company over 3 years) most of us have held management positions with other dealerships and we know our product inside and out. I have mandatory BMW training in GA and NC for at least a month out of the year including a couple days minimum track time with the vehicles and trained driving instructors. I have worked for other luxury car brands and the training wasn't even close to BMW's hands on approach. Of course, there are exceptions to everything. As far as the BMW Genius initiative, it is dealer opt in at this point to have a one or two appointed geniuses on staff in order to answer some of the more technical questions, but mainly they are there to sell accessories. They are appointing Client Advisors to this position as well, it's not an initiative to phase CA's out. They still expect us to be well informed and very well trained. Also, the entire sales staff here drives BMW's, with the Center Employee deals they give us (Along with my dealerships demo program) we would be silly not to.
Nice to have some perspective from someone on the inside!

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Mike@GraysonBMW commented:
March 25, 2014, 4:51 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by bighorns View Post
Nice to have some perspective from someone on the inside!

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No problem! Glad to answer any questions.
falar commented:
March 26, 2014, 7:13 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike@GraysonBMW View Post
Also, the entire sales staff here drives BMW's, with the Center Employee deals they give us (Along with my dealerships demo program) we would be silly not to.
Sounds like a nice perk and if I owned a dealership I would definitely want ALL of my employees to drive what we were selling for a variety of reasons.



For example, my wife had a question about ipod or phone linking or something of the sort with her X3 and didn't even need to get to her CA or the service department because the girl at the front desk had the same exact issue and was able to help her out.
cdoumas @ Karprice commented:
March 26, 2014, 11:17 pm

Seems more like a marketing tactic. There is still no transparency in the industry. Improve the transparency of the deal and then you change things!