Why BMW Is Going Into The Rental Car Biz
German automaker sees declining car ownership in congested cities
BMW of Manhattan will be the first of what is expected to be a chain of services offered in other cities soon, called BMW On Demand, that will allow people to easily rent one of the German luxury cars.
It is a service the company started in Europe with great success, and which it thinks will be a popular import to the U.S. Ed Robinson, president of BMW Financial Services, says that not only do luxury car owners like to have access to their cars of choice when in another city, but that BMW is getting ready for a trend that points to city dwellers increasingly not wanting to own cars. "We have seen in Europe that the denser the population becomes in a city center the less people want to own cars," says Robinson. "But they still want access to premium and luxury cars when they do need or want a car."
Car usage, as opposed to car ownership, is on the rise with services like Zipcar, a service that has cropped up in many cities that allows people to easily have access to a range of vehicles by the minute or the hour.
BMW On Demand does not require a monthly subscription fee or club dues. It works pretty much like a car rental service, though it will be located at BMW dealerships. The firm will announce pricing when it opens the doors on the service in August. Following New York, the most logical cities for the company to rollout the service are Washington DC, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and so on. But any BMW dealer in the country that thinks they have a demand in their market will be allowed to offer BMW On Demand.
To start, the Manhattan pilot program will offer around 100 328i sedans. Later, the mix of vehicles will broaden to include crossovers like the X5 and X3, as well as the larger 5 Series and 7 Series, as well as specialty vehicles like the Z4 roadster and M3 and M5 performance cars.
Though BMW Financial Services sees broad demand for the new service, they expect to see spikes in the Fall during high school and college reunion season: "Whoah...nice wheels Dave...you must be doing well."
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