BMW has developed a program to market its new 1999 3 series directly to potential buyers.
The program, which is called the Ultimate Driving Experience, is a series of performance driving instruction for potential buyers. It starts in Chicago July 20.
The Ultimate Driving Experience will feature four test tracks to train participants in braking skills, accident avoidance, traction control and handling.
The driving sessions are by invitation only, and will take place at motor raceways, sports stadiums and large outdoor camping parks.
Participants will be potential BMW buyers whom the automaker has identified through various marketing efforts such as golf tournaments, its Web site and comparison drives when the new BMW 5 series was introduced two years ago.
The 1999 BMW 3 series, which goes on sale this summer, will be available for test-drives by participants.
'We discovered that once we get them behind the wheel, we'll likely sell them a car,' said Jim McDowell, vice president of marketing for BMW of North America Inc.
McDowell said BMW does not use brand ads to sell cars; the automaker uses them to reinforce the brand and position it against competitors.
To sell cars, he said, 'We need to give people a sense of what it's like to be behind the wheel.'
But BMW will do some brand building during its Ultimate Driving Experience by displaying vintage BMWs and the automaker's latest models.
There also will be BMW motorcycles on display and BMW merchandise for sale.
In addition to Chicago, the Ultimate Driving Experience will make stops in New York, Atlanta and Houston before ending in Miami in December.
Each stop will last about 10 days. McDowell expects 50,000 people to attend.
If it is successful in generating sales, BMW plans to run the Ultimate Driving Experience for two years.