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Q&A: BMW's German sales head prepares dealers for a flood of models; Mini to have separate dealers

BMW launches
According to a survey of BMW dealers, BMW Group will launch its new models on the following dates in 2004:

January 10: X3 and 6 series coupe
March 27: 6 series convertible
May 15: 5 series touring
June 26: Mini convertible
September 18: 1 series

Munich. Ludwig Willisch took the job as BMW's sales director for Germany four months ago. In an interview with Automobilwoche he spoke about the group's sales targets.

Q: Mr. Willisch, BMW sales have been falling in Germany for years now. Mini sales are booming but with BMW...

A: ... the number of sales are now also increasing, due to the sales of the 5 series. We did very well in the last quarter. I dare to forecast that we will reach last year's sales result by the end of this year (Editor's Note: 226,197 new BMWs were registered in Germany in 2002).

Q: With the help of short-term registrations? Dealers say that the sales of the 3 series are being pushed using short-term registrations.

A: I cannot confirm this. Sales of the 3 series are still going very well. Short-term registrations, which by the way are not part of our strategy, are therefore out of question.

Q: What are you doing to increase the sales of your flagship vehicle? It looks like the Audi A8 is going to push the 7 series from its No. 2 luxury car sales spot, at least in Germany.

A: Admittedly, the A8 was ahead of us for a few months. However, I am optimistic that by the time we prepare the balance sheet on the 31st of December we will have strengthened our second position behind the Mercedes S class.

Q: It is said that the 7 series will be restyled in 2004 due to is controversial design.

A: I cannot confirm this rumor. There will definitely be no changes to the car's design next year.

Q: Are you planning any sales promotions for the 7 series?

A: Our main focus for the 7 series is to continue offering test drives, a strategy that has proven worthwhile in the second half of 2003, so there is a no reason for us to abandon this intensive customer support concept. I believe that a test drive - which often lasts for several days - has so much emotional influence on the customer that discussions over discounts are usually much shorter.

Q: You will launch six new models during the first nine months of 2004. What will the impact be on the German market?

A: It is obvious that we are planning to sell more cars next year. However, it is difficult for us to predict the future. And we definitely don't want to share our plans with our competitors.

Q: The X3 compact sport-utility and the 6 series coupe will be on the market in January. How are the preparations going?

A: We have approached the target groups for the X3 and the 6 series and - when it comes to the 6 series - have invited them to test drives or at least to previews. Our target group for the X3 is active, younger people. By the way, we have invented a new unit of measurement for this model: the size of the trunk is not calculated in golf bags but in mountain bikes. This demonstrates how our clientele changes.

Q: What was the intention of your X3 Challenge?

A: We worked in cooperation with Nike on the event. Thirty-three teams competed against each other in extreme sports such as ice climbing. The participants could register for the challenge on the Internet, at special PDA terminals at airports or at fitness studios. The results were sensational! Fifty percent of those who registered - and I am talking of a few thousand people here - are drivers of other brands. Usually, when organizing such events, 20 percent is considered a very good result. And what is still even more promising for us is that more than 50 percent of the participants stated that they are thinking of buying a new car within the next 12 months.

Q: Can you tell us something about the number of orders received so far?

A: With both the X3 and the 6 series it will be a challenge to manufacture a sufficient number of cars. We are very satisfied with the order situation, especially for the X3.

Q: How are the dealers going to cope with the flood of new models in 2004?

A: I have just finished a tour of all German dealers. We have rarely received as much praise as we have for the fact that we have so much to offer in 2004. We will launch the X3 and the 6 series coupe, two models which have no predecessor, at the beginning of next year. The dealers see this as a major opportunity to generate additional business.

Q: How are you preparing your dealers for this?

A: The dealers have to be prepared to increase showroom capacity. They will definitely have to employ more sales personnel to cope with the additional volume. Currently, we are discussing this matter the dealers, but most of the talks are with the dealer association on creating general solutions. This also impacts the Mini brand.

Q: In what way?

A: I am convinced that Mini will only be successful on a long-term basis if we create an even stronger distinction between the Mini and BMW in the showrooms. It will also become necessary to employ an exclusive dealer only for the Mini.

Tags: Automakers BMW

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