Fleet News

BMW tries direct online dealing for fleet customers

BMW (GB) is experimenting with selling cars directly to outright purchase fleets via a new initiative called BMW Direct.

This allows fleets to order vehicles directly from the manufacturer, and then track the status of orders online. Fleet News Net understands Consignia is one of the fleets trialling the system.

Jim O'Donnell, managing director of BMW (GB), insists BMW Direct does not spell the death of its 154-strong dealer network, claiming it will enhance dealer business and profitability.

He said some major fleets had asked to deal directly with BMW, with the manufacturer almost becoming an agent for its dealers.

This year O'Donnell said BMW (GB) will supply 200 cars direct to a fleet, which he declined to name, with no dealer involvement.

O'Donnell said it was new business won from a rival manufacturer and had not taken business away from a BMW dealer.

'This is very much a pilot exercise to see if dealing direct works,' he said.

'The mechanism works fine but it is too early to say whether there is any advantage to fleets and whether they receive a better service or whether it replicates the service dealers can offer.'

BMW has also held discussions with leasing companies about BMW Direct, but encountered the obstacle that it can only supply one marque.

'There was no financial benefit to leasing companies, who viewed the mechanism as another layer of bureaucracy. If all vehicles could be supplied direct irrespective of manufacturer that would be different,' said O'Donnell. He added that BMW Direct could function well with BMW's own 4,000-strong company car fleet with vehicles selected and ordered by employees over the web. There has never been any dealer involvement in staff cars.

Alternatively, BMW (GB) could deal direct with major outright purchase fleets via the internet and use its dealer network to deliver cars.

Dealers would receive a handling fee, based on delivering pre-determined levels of customer satisfaction, rather than a margin, but BMW has not yet supplied any vehicles this way.

'We have told dealers that we reserve the right to go direct and we will do it over the next year with a major outright purchase fleet,' said O'Donnell.

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