BMW extends online sales to Germany
7 April 2017
BMW has been selling new cars online in the UK since late 2015 and is looking to expand this sales channel to Germany. ‘Technically, we are ready to start next year,’ said Peter van Binsbergen, head of BMW Sales Germany, in an interview with Kfz-betrieb. ‘However, we need to clarify some details and discuss the whole thing with the dealers' association. When it comes to the end, we decide together,’ he added. The business will go through the dealer network as is the case in the UK, with van Binsbergen emphasising that ‘Direct sales are not our goal.’
The president of the BMW dealers' association, Peter Reisacher, acknowledged ‘a good common understanding’ between the manufacturer and the retail trade in this matter, with both parties agreeing that transactions should remain with dealers. Reisacher envisages that most customers will still buy at the dealership though, reiterating that ‘our business will remain largely physical.’
Based on BMW’s experience in the UK, van Binsbergen added: ‘Many use the online chat to get information, but then come to the dealer for a test drive and close the sale there. The people who actually press the 'order' button online are very few.’
BMW is also developing its aftersales presence online. In November 2016, the OEM established an online shop for parts and accessories, through which customers can order products directly from their local dealer. ‘By the end of the year, 400 companies will be participating. The number of products will rise from 20,000 now to 75,000’ said van Binsbergen.
Finally, BMW is also rolling out an online car service booking system, with van Binsbergen promising that ‘by the end of the year, 85 to 90 percent of dealers will have implemented this.’
Numerous OEMs have rolled out online portals, including Mercedes, but BMW is clearly seeking to involve the dealer network rather than create a competitive sales channel. Dealers are under threat as it is through ride-hailing apps, car sharing and the increasing uptake of electric vehicles, which require less servicing than cars with internal combustion engines. But consumers still see dealers as indispensable.