DETROIT -- BMW of North America is rolling out new dealership standards, patterning changes on what has happened to retail outside the automotive world.
BMW aims to give showrooms the friendliness of an Apple computer store and the technology and experts to explain an increasingly complicated and growing product line. It will cost BMW's 339 dealerships about $2.8 billion to meet the standards over the next four years, BMW executives said.
The upgrades are mandatory.
One key component: increased use of video to showcase BMW's expanding lineup. About three years ago BMW had 50 to 60 different products or variants; today the number tops 100, said Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America.
"You cannot have all the cars and all the variants at the dealership, but you can impressively show them on a screen," he said.
Dealers also will have to employ so-called BMW geniuses who explain features and technology without any pressure to buy. When it's time to make a purchase, the customer is turned over to a salesperson.
"If we look at the retail environment in the automotive world, it did not change much since we started selling cars," said Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing.
"Outside, the retail world has been changing dramatically," but the automotive dealership "has not been moving at the pace people are expecting," said Robertson.
"We are reformatting and adjusting to customer needs."
BMW has extensively discussed the standards with dealers, and the perception is the company is "trying to be more reasonable," said Damon Shelly, head of the BMW National Dealer Forum and owner of Irvine BMW and Irvine Mini in Irvine, Calif., and Shelly BMW in Buena Park, Calif.
"Their leadership is sensitive that BMW dealers have invested money over the years," Shelly said. "They realize their worldwide standards and design story has changed and they have to bring the U.S. in alignment with the worldwide design."