DETROIT -- BMW of North America knows millennial customers are the future for the industry, but it wants the top 1 percent -- those with a household income of $150,000-plus, says the company’s CEO.
Ludwig Willisch, 59, said BMW is targeting these elite, under-36 customers with high technology in vehicles, improved connectivity and showroom innovations like “genius” product specialists. But there are other sensitive areas for this generation.
“We know this 1 percent of millennials gravitate toward brands that display a larger purpose than just selling products.”
BMW answers that with its iVentures capital venture business that invests in “solutions that focus on urban mobility needs,” Willisch said. “We support high-potential start-ups that are dedicated to shaping the future of global mobility.”
On another front, “millennials gravitate toward brands that fit their lifestyle interests,” and BMW has an alliance with GoPro, the mobile video camera maker, Willisch said. The cameras can be controlled from inside the car using BMW’s iDrive and screen display.
“This underscores the point that millennials are not passive consumers,” Willisch said. “They are motivated to create and capture their own unique experiences and we make that possible through our vehicles.”
BMW is also aware that some millennials, particularly those who live in urban areas, do not want to own a car. “But we also know they are always potential BMW drivers,” Willisch said.
To make them familiar with BMW, the brand has a global car-sharing program and a parking app called ParkNow that can help “build relationships with them,” Willisch said.
Millennials view technology as a luxury item, “but one that must be humanized for them,” Willisch said.
He sees BMW’s ConnectedDrive technology package as a feature that would appeal to this buyer group because it enables them to control the vehicle and performing functions such as locking the doors from a smartphone.
ConnectedDrive also has a concierge service “that can locate almost anything,” and plot a route using the navigation system, Willisch said.
More social media
On the retail side, BMW will use more social media.
“Millennials choose vehicles by relying on word of mouth, recommendations from friends and and influencers,” Willisch said. “As I speak, we are developing programs to leverage key influencers who already have thousands of millennial followers."
In stores, young buyers who hate the pressure of salespeople can deal with the product experts called Geniuses who are there only to provide information and help configure vehicles.
“By taking this approach, we have completely reversed the traditional sales process. Customers now spend most of their time learning about, test driving and configuring a vehicles and minimal time with sales F&I and delivery,” Willisch said.