BMW To Sell i Cars Over The Internet For The First Time Ever

5 years ago by Inside EVs Staff 3

The BMW i8 On Display At the 2012 London Olympic Pavilion

Perhaps taking a page out of Nissan’s playbook, BMW announced that it will be selling its upcoming i cars, the BMW i3 and i8 over the internet, which marks the first time the German automaker has made such an effort.

BMW i3 At London Olympics

BMW also plans to have a roaming sales force of sorts, that patrols a limited network of high volume, high square footage dealerships in an effort to promote its new brand of electric cars.

The first i branded showroom, located in London, just recently opened its doors.  However, the best you can come away with at this point is some personal photos of the vehicles and some glossy brochures, as the two plug-ins are not yet available for purchase and neither have been priced.

The two models are also sporting a very high profile as an official Olympic partner, and have their own pavilion on site for participants and spectators alike to check out.

The BMW i3 is expected to fetch between $43,000 and $49,000, while the futuristic looking BMW i8, will fetch an amount north of $120,000 (100,000 euro).

BMW i8 To Be Sold Online

It is estimated that BMW is spending about $3 billion dollars building and promoting its i brand, and given that BMW intends to sell 30,000 of the lower cost i3 in its first full year of production in 2013, BMW may have some fears internally that the electric vehicle industry is not all it has been purported to be.  Worldwide electric sales stood at 47,000 cars globally last year.  BMW has officially told InsideEVS that it is not backing down from its bold electric vehicle plans.

With selling on the internet, the drawback to the consumer is that they cannot actually see the cars themselves, but more specifically, they cannot test drive them, which may affect sales after the initial first wave of demand has been filled.

Reaching the mass audience from the internet is a significant hurdle, and one that Nissan has just experienced first hand attempting to sell their 73 mile range LEAF direct, and one Tesla will soon face with the Model S.  Nissan is now scrambling to fill dealership lots around the world with inventory, and has admitted to having to change their advertising and rollout plans for the car.

BMW dealerships who do elect to carry the i brand in stock will have some stiff demands put on them according to Ian Robertson, BMW’s sales chief.

Direct sales will be focused in the world’s major urban areas, and specifically at those dealerships who have displayed not only a high volume of sales for BMW, but who also have large footprint dealerships that can not only accommodate the cars themselves but “work with i models’ powering technology and carbon-fiber body material.”

In Germany, BMW has selected 45 of about 200 dealers to stock the brand, a ratio BMW expects to duplicate elsewhere.    Linda Croissant, a spokeswoman at Munich-based BMW, told Automotive News Europe that “details of how i-model buyers, the Web site and dealerships will interact are “still in the planning process,” and will be communicated later”.

The takeaway is, if you want an early BMW i3 or i8, get ready to reserve.

BMW's i Brand of Cars - i8 and i3

Automotive News Europe (sub)

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3 responses to "BMW To Sell i Cars Over The Internet For The First Time Ever"

  1. SteveT says:

    BMW is either cheaping out on the cars, or they are wanting the dealers to spend buckets of their own money on some crazy bmw set-up and dealers are saying to get bent

    What else can it be, why not sell them out of everyplace that you can sell them out of, that is how you sell the most cars. Why sell them on the internet and in select dealers as opposed to the internet and every dealer?

  2. Tom Moloughney says:

    Steve: BMW has been watching Nissan and Chevy very closely. If you’ve noticed, there are some Nissan and Chevy dealers that are selling a lot of LEAF’s and Volts yet others, in basically the same markets aren’t selling any. The dealers are either on board with electric vehicles, or aren’t, it’s really that simple. I’ll give you an example. A couple months ago I convinced a friend (a former Mayor of a local town) to go and test drive a volt. His Focus hybrid lease was expiring, and needed a new car. I thought the volt would be perfect for him.

    When he arrived at the dealer and aske a salesman to see a volt (they had one in stock and it was buried in the back of the lot – they would have to move three cars to get it out) the salesman said “Why would you want one of them?” followed by “Where are you going to charge it?” Obviously this dealer isn’t going to sell many (if any) volts. I’ve heard similar stories about other Chevy and Nissan dealers many tiimes over. There are even dealers that refuse to sell volts – one made the news in Pennsylvania when a dealer sent a truckload of volts back to GM refusing to sell the “stupid cars”. Auto manufacturers have very little power over the independantlly owned dealerships here in the US as there are many laws to protect them.

    BMW is basically saying if you don’t really want to sell the i brand cars, and aren’t willing tocomplete a training program, have an EV certified specialist on your sales team, keep a decent stock of i3’s on hand and allot a certain amount of showroom floor space for the cars then you won’t get to sell them. You are either committed to selling them or not. These cars require a different level of training for sales. Customers come in with questions that regular dealerships don’t have to deal with like charging and infrasturuture issues, battery life, long erm maintnenece, etc. This isn’t much different from their M cars, not all dealerships get to sell those either.

    1. Mark H says:

      Thanks for that input Tom. That is great insight on some dealership responses to the EV culture and good inside info to how BMW is responding. The education curve of this industry is definitely going to be a decade in the making even though viable product is available as we speak. I have to feel that ones political views are impacting such responses particularly with some dealerships. That is unfortunate but truly will work itself out in time. The moderate projected growth of this industry is probably going to help in the long run particularly with respect to future battery technology and available demand. Thanks again for sharing the inside scoop to add legs to this story.