The manufacturer expects to sell about 500 cars next year through BMW Direct, an internet-based facility which gives fleet managers, drivers and leasing companies the opportunity to select and specify cars online, then follow the order via the web.
The internet facility is part of BMW's strategy to be more fleet friendly, and has been trialled since May by company car drivers within BMW and at Consignia, where it has led to an increase in drivers choosing BMWs.
The roll-out of the facility will be on a fleet-by-fleet basis, typically to larger fleets where future orders justify the investment cost in tailoring the site to the individual specification of the customer.
According to Andrew Wilmot, chief executive officer of web developer BDR Consulting, which built the BMW Direct site, the ability to configure and track cars via the web has been particularly popular with user-choosers.
He said: 'Results have exceeded expectations. It's about providing customer choice. More and more people do not want to buy in a traditional manner - in the south east, around 50 per cent of all sales are made over the telephone or internet these days.'
The ability of customers to choose cars online raises questions over the future role of car dealers, particularly in the light of the review of the car distribution block exemption.
But Wilmot believes BMW Direct will help rather than hinder dealers' business: 'It's a case of offering better customer choice and satisfaction. It really should be called BMW 'Choice'.'