When BMW launches its i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid next year, the manufacturer will be making the vehicles available directly to customers in Europe via online sales, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The online sales option is aimed at web-savvy customers, but may take a while to catch on because “many customers will still want to go somewhere to look at and drive the vehicle before buying,” Ian Fletcher, a London-based auto analyst at research company IHS Global Insight, told Bloomberg.
The online setup would also be an attempt for the manufacturer to reduce costs. Because internet sales cost less than half of dealership distribution, cars sold online can be priced 5% to 7% lower than showroom tags.
While details of how i-model buyers, the website, and dealerships will interact are still unclear, the online sales strategy begs the question of how those customers -- who will be spending $48,000 on their new electric vehicles -- will finance their purchases.
Not that it’s happening here in the U.S. anytime soon, but I am curious to see if BMW's web strategy will take hold. Will consumers be comfortable with: A. buying a car without first being inside it; and B. having a car shipped to them just like some new table candles or wall art?
I’d also be curious to know, if it does catch on, will customers use dealers for the test drive, say “No, thanks” and then go home and order the car online? That’s what girls do in the world of shoes and dresses — try them on at the store, but then go home and get a better price online (At least, that’s what I tend to do these days). Hey, it could happen. But dealers probably won’t be too pleased.