NEW ORLEANS -- Dealer input on BMW of North America's programs and products is critical to the brand's success going forward, BMW leaders said at its make meeting at the NADA convention.
BMW is launching its redesigned 5-series sedan on Saturday, Feb. 11. It also is prepared to handle a flood of vehicles coming off lease, and it will monitor its production so as to deliver dealers a product mix that meets consumers' increasing demand for SUVs and crossovers.
"People are excited about the openness and the willingness of my team to work together with the dealer body," Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America, told Automotive News after the meeting.
BMW starts production on the X7 large crossover in November 2018, Willisch said.
"It'll be in dealerships shortly after that, under the Christmas tree, as they say," Willisch said.
BMW leaders are working "month by month" to ensure that dealers have the right mix of sedans and crossovers at levels that match demand, Willisch said.
BMW dealers' current inventory levels are good, said Tim Kraemer, general manager of BMW of Minnetonka, in Minnesota. Kraemer is head of the BMW National Dealer Forum.
Kraemer said most dealers have "a good mix of SUVs" at this point. He is pleased that BMW committed to a 12-month lease pull-ahead program to get off-lease vehicles back to dealerships ahead of the hectic spring selling season.
At Sonic Automotive Inc., BMW and Honda account for about 40 percent of its profits, so managing off-lease vehicle inventory is critical.
The lease pull-ahead program "will work, but if it doesn't, we can also handle it with our inventory management system," said Jeff Dyke, Sonic's executive vice president of operations, who recently joined BMW's dealer advisory board.
Willisch said BMW also is looking at "different channels for remarketing" off-lease vehicles.
Willisch said the spirit of cooperation between his team and dealers will continue. For example, he said, a dealer had a problem completing showroom improvements that BMW wanted.
"He asked, "Can I have an exception?' We said sure. It really is about applying common sense to make things happen," Willisch said.