BMW’s head of future retail forecasts a huge shift for BMW’s sales operations in the coming decade
Jimi Beckwith
23 November 2016

The traditional car dealership model is set to dramatically change, according to BMW Group’s head of premium retail experience, Michele Fuhs.

Fuhs said, “nothing will happen in ten days, but I can’t tell you that automotive retail will look the same in 10-15 years.”

Read more: Audi dealers to sell cars using virtual reality technology

Fuhs made the comments at BMW’s future of retail symposium at its flagship Amsterdam dealer in the Netherlands. Speakers from other brands, as well as architects and designers, gathered to discuss the change in store for automotive retail, as the industry prepares for the shift to mobility schemes, increased urbanisation and growing product ranges.

BMW’s range is already too big for dealerships compared with a few years ago, when it primarily consisted of only the 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series, admitted Fuhs. The current BMW line-up has ten times as many models as only around a decade ago.

“We have to completely revolutionise our network; we can’t have 24,000 square feet in central Amsterdam,” said Fuhs.

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BMW 3 Series

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Numerous ideas about future retail solutions were discussed and floated, including the possibility of boutique-style stores, more experience-based brand spaces, and both physical and digital presences. A virtual showroom, like the Rockar ones employed by Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover, were conspicuous in their lack of discussion, however.

Read more: Up to 20% of new cars are pre-registered by dealers

Small changes to the dealer network of BMW will be made in the near future, instead of large-scale investment and dealer overhaul, Fuhs said. However, a more interactive experience of car retail is planned to be implemented by 2018, with a 'fully experiential retail experience' coming two years later.

Fuhs’s comments followed the announcement that BMW will launch a brand consultancy arm to advise other firms on their branding, and comes not long after Audi announced the profound change in store for the production line as we know it.  

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Comments
24

23 November 2016
Same as Motorshows...they won't exist in the traditional format. There'll be 'bespoke events' with targeted buyers invited to attend - an extension of the Amazon 'suggested items' you get online after you've been browsing.

TS7

23 November 2016
... if I can't sit in the car, adjust the seats, feel the controls, take in the ambiance... I'm sure as sh*t not going to buy one.

23 November 2016
I believe Cooper BMW spent £16,000,000 building there Reading showroom. Not sure they'll be happy to see this article.

23 November 2016
"their showroom" apologies

23 November 2016
Dealerships as we know them will undoubtedly change, but surely there will always be a need for potential buyers to actually see, sit in and drive cars that they're interested in? Virtual boutiques, for example, are a novelty and have the potential to perhaps narrow down the proliferation of models that the premium brands in particular now produce. Perhaps we shall see a gradual reduction in the number of conventional showrooms, and a growth in "super" dealerships that follow the format set by Mercedes World in Woking.

These make a lot of sense, combining as they do the space to display many models and the ability to graft on a wider (and more lucrative!) range of activities- driving tracks, cafe/restaurants, interactive experiences, and driving courses for people of all ages etc. The economies of scale will appeal to the manufacturers and distributors, and potential buyers will enjoy a richer experience than any conventional dealership. And we should not forget that many potential buyers find car showrooms either boring or daunting.

Whatever the future holds, we can be sure that although the world is constantly changing, consumers will have the upper hand in how a product is sold.

23 November 2016
Spot on "The Driver", just going to write a similar comment, and to all those who say " I wont buy a Car on the internet" look up a small American firm called Amazon !

23 November 2016
Spot on "The Driver", just going to write a similar comment, and to all those who say " I wont buy a Car on the internet" look up a small American firm called Amazon !

23 November 2016
Spot on fella.

23 November 2016
Spot on fella.

23 November 2016
Spot on fella.

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Our Verdict

BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series' outstanding performance and handling makes it a complete and consummate all-rounder - but then the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Guilia arrived

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week