BMW to test short-term rentals at New York-area dealerships
Program to offer 3 series, aims to spur sales
BMW Group Financial Services plans to offer short-term rentals at BMW dealerships under a pilot program starting next month in the New York metropolitan area.
Customers will be able to make reservations online starting Aug. 13, said Ed Robinson, CEO of the captive finance company in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
Pricing for the service -- BMW on Demand -- will be disclosed later.
"BMW on Demand will fit the market niche between car sharing and rentals," Robinson said Friday in an interview with Automotive News.
The company hopes that BMW on Demand rentals will spur new-car sales.
The pilot program, expected to run through year end, is limited to 12 BMW dealerships in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Robinson said.
BMW Group Financial Services will retain title to the cars and insure them, he said.
After cars have been in service for a while -- how long, exactly, is one of the details to be worked out, but maybe for a year, Robinson said -- dealers will have an opportunity to buy the cars for resale, similar to the way dealerships handle off-lease cars.
The finance company will pay dealerships for service work and for time and effort dedicated to the program, he said.
For instance, some customers may want a product orientation when they pick up a car, or spend time in the customer waiting area.
Those features distinguish the BMW program from car-sharing programs such as Zipcar, where customers pick up cars on the street directly after other customers use them, Robinson said.
Clean, fueled cars
Customers can expect BMW on Demand cars to be clean, in good repair and fueled, he said.
"We've taken all those worries away from the customer," he said.
Robinson said that if car-sharing rentals are five or six hours, BMW on Demand rentals could be up to five or six days or even longer.
Administrative details will be handled by retailers, but it's likely that the same dealership employees who handle service loaners probably would handle BMW on Demand cars, Robinson said.
The parent company has a more comprehensive BMW on Demand program in Germany.
It offers the entire BMW lineup, plus some classic BMW models and "specialty" models such as high-performance BMW M variants.
According to a BMW on Demand Web site in Germany, hourly rates range from the equivalent of about $30 for a 1-series coupe to $85 for high-end cars such as the M5.
In the United States, BMW Group Financial Services expects to launch the program exclusively with the 3 series, Robinson said.
Later, it may decide to offer additional models, he said.
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