SAN FRANCISCO -- BMW's top North American executive is asking the brand's dealers to continue improving their customers' dealership experience in 2015. "We can go further," said Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America, referring to progress made in 2014.
A year ago, Willisch and BMW's dealers decried what they called an embarrassing performance on J.D. Power's Sales Satisfaction Index and vowed to improve it during the year.
Willisch congratulated dealers at the make meeting for climbing from 12th place to sixth among buyers on the industry scorecard, which indicates how pleased car buyers were with their dealership purchasing experience. "I'd like it to go all the way to first place," Willisch said after the meeting.
Steve Late, president of BMW of Austin in Texas and chairman of the BMW National Dealer Forum, described the mood of this year's make meeting as "celebratory," in light of increasing U.S. sales and dealer profits and new investments in BMW's infrastructure to help dealers improve performance.
The manufacturer updated dealers on four new projects intended to expedite deliveries of vehicles and service parts, Late said. BMW has just opened a regional parts distribution center in Redlands, Calif., that will provide same-day delivery of service parts to dealers in California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada. Another same-day distribution center recently opened near Dallas to expedite parts to dealers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
"Their desire was to create same-day parts delivery," Late said of the centers. "But in fact, we're able to get two deliveries a day from them."
Also, BMW opened a new U.S. port processing center in Baltimore in September that will take on more vehicle trim and customizing work for dealers. A new port will open this year in Galveston, Texas, Willisch told dealers.
He said BMW is making rapid progress on the "Future Retail 2016" program, which is also intended to boost customer satisfaction. A key component of it requires stores to hire product representatives known as BMW Geniuses to discuss vehicles without pressing for sales. Willisch said the number of BMW Geniuses grew from 500 to 750 last year and will increase further this year.
Of the network's 339 U.S. dealerships, 22 have completed construction on the showroom architecture required for the program, Willisch told dealers, and 147 others have now launched construction.