Being the number one maker of luxury automobiles, BMW is revamping the way its dealerships operate. The German automobile company has innovated a fresh dealership process that includes more ‘genius’ product consultants and fewer sales human resources. The BMW Genius App is the mobile part of the countrywide “BMW Genius Everywhere” program, which renovates the conventional customer service model and draws out the relationship between drivers and the BMW Genius Team. BMW has claimed that the geniuses would explain the high tech features of the cars to the buyers.
The idea, popularized by Apple with in-store professionals (Apple’s Genius Bars) who explain the company’s laptops and other products, is a softer and more stress-free approach. Buyers can pose queries to a trained expert without the pressure of price negotiation. Once they are ready to buy, a sales person takes over. BMW geniuses are college graduates who talk about the potential features of the vehicle to the buyers. The conventional way of automotive retailing in which the customers visit the showroom clutching the Sunday newspaper with an ad of the offers provided is being ruled out as the customers are unnoticed or fast-talked with high-pressure sales people. Thanks to the internet, the customers are able to research and become knowledgeable about the vehicle on their own. The ‘Genius of BMW’ is trained by the manufacturer, but deployed by the dealer. While an Apple’s Genius also fixes and analyzes the products, BMW Product Genius is designed to explain the features to the car shoppers using his product knowledge and high-tech presentations. This initiative is aimed at giving the customers a detailed description of the features of the automobiles as well as configure them according to their personal needs. According to BMW, this idea of ‘The BMW Genius’ will first make its appearance in France, UK, the Netherlands and then the USA. Since the product geniuses have to be mobile to service the customers, he or she is provided with a tablet to know all information about the vehicle. Lexus, a Japanese luxury car manufacturer, hoping to catch up with BMW some day, is also working out in the same direction. The Penske Motor group has deployed “Lexperts” in California for about three years. Penske said that even though the concept had been inspired by the Apple Genius, they had been able to recruit college students who could learn and set new career paths. BMW has revealed that it would be closing in on a goal of having 500 Geniuses employed at 339 US showroom dealerships by the end of the year. In the opinion of Ian Robertson, BMW Board member of marketing, the geniuses make it easier and more informative for their customers. By now, there are approximately 1500 geniuses in 43 countries. The number is expected to rise up to 2000 by the end of 2015. Sticking to a meeting of geniuses in Munich this month, Robertson said, “they are surprised, they like the innovative job, and they particularly like finding out how many customers enjoy an ambience of information and no sales pressure.” Earlier, the European dealerships denied using the Geniuses considering the added cost, but after realizing the possible results the app, they settled down.
The next innovation in automotive retailing is to allow the buyers to examine the car inventories, place an order and arrange for financing without making a personal visit. AutoNation, largest publicly-owned chain of dealerships in the U.S., stated it would unveil in December an online organization that will allow buyers to choose and reserve vehicles from dealer stock, while BMW is anticipating online Geniuses in the near future.