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It's hardly surprising, given that BMW is a European company, that it would like its customers to buy cars in a more European way. Over in the Old World, buyers walk into showrooms, choose the kind of car they would like, stipulate exterior and interior color schemes, and which options they want fitted. They work out the finance, shake hands with the salesman and then wait a few weeks for the factory to make their specific car.

On this side of the Atlantic, someone goes to a dealer and wants to drive a new purchase off the lot after 15 minutes of haggling.

BMW is seeking to change all that by putting a Build Your Own configurator page into its website. Visitors can click away to create their ideal new Bimmer. "It involves a shift of behavior," says Stacy Morris, BMW's marketing communications manager in North America. "But we've found that customer satisfaction is higher when they get exactly what they want.

"The scheme goes into overdrive when the new-generation X3 compact crossover SUV comes out next year. Before that, though, BMW plans to entice buyers with exclusive (though as yet unspecified) options if they pre-order their vehicles in advance of the launch date (also TBA). Gratification for customers is far from instant, but since the new X3 will be built in BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina plant, they could get their bespoke vehicle after a two-week wait.

This makes perfect sense for BMW, since many added options are nice little earners for the company, and also for the dealers, because they don't need to have a lot of inventory standing around. In addition, the situation of discounting cars that do not have a customer's preferred spec and the buyer having to settle is much less likely to happen.

"There is a greater level of involvement for the buyer," says Morris, "they will be able follow their X3 as it's being built." BMW can also promote its factory delivery program (where buyers visit the facility then drive their spanking new car home) and its performance driving school at the track next door.

Expect this idea to spread. Smart has already done something similar, VW has its "Exclusive" program and Audi saw its April pre-orders more than double compared with the year before.

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Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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