Here's a twist in BMW's foray into the EV market that we hadn't anticipated: Online sales. Bloomberg is reporting that when BMW launches its i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid next year, the German carmaker will be selling the cars direct to customers via the Internet.

BMW is showing off its electric brand at a new London showroom, part of its Olympic sponsorship, but when the cars go on sale in Europe the ordering process will be part of the car configurator, according to the report. A BMW rep told the news service that details for how this ordering process would work with its existing dealer network have not yet been worked out.

The motivation for online sales is simple: Cheaper costs for the automaker. Online car prices could be five to seven percent less than those sold from a dealer, according to the report.

Here in the U.S., it is highly unlikely that such a model will be implemented. Both Ford and General Motors explored creating direct, online sales channels in the U.S. a decade ago, but those experiments went nowhere, due to state franchise laws and universal opposition to the idea among dealers.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 102 Comments
      adam1keith1980
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't understand the reasons for laws to protect stealerships. It might have made sense in the past to help out the small business owners, but nowadays multiple dealerships are owned by one private owner. In my city, one guy has the monopoly on BMW dealerships, and the price and service quality (or lack of) show. Every dealership I have dealt with, including ones representing prestige brands, feel shady. It would really benefit the consumers to cut off the middle man and standardize customer service.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @adam1keith1980
        [blocked]
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @adam1keith1980
        well, there are good dealerships AND bad, its your job to ween them out...that said there are people that no matter what, will NEVER be happy.
      turbomonkey2k
      • 2 Years Ago
      If the manufacturers didn't need dealers they wouldn't have them. It's pretty much always been the case that a manufacturer doesn't want to compete against the people selling their products. Why alienate the people who are selling far more of your product than you ever could on your own. By the same token if I'm selling a product and the manufacturer decides to sell directly to the consumer at a better price than I can you can bet I'll be finding a different product to sell. These electric cars will have very limited appeal at first if not for the next several years. If franchise dealers aren't permitted to sell them then there shouldn't be any problem with franchise laws. This could be a good way to get a product like this, with limited appeal, started.
        Val
        • 2 Years Ago
        @turbomonkey2k
        Since there are laws that prevent automakers form selling directly to customers, it's not like they can bypass the dealers if they wanted to. They HAVE to go through the dealers, the dealers lobbied for those laws, not the automakers (they lobbied for different laws, but that's another story). Times have changed, even 15 years ago online sales of cars would seem impossible, now with internet in every house, with interactive web content, it is possible and much easier for the customer to shop online. Dealers may soon realize that they have become obsolete. As mentioned above, people should have the choice to shop online or through a dealer.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          they can now through Autobrokers....but theres another twist to the word middleman. And HEY come I cant buy a DVD direct from Universal Studios....Amazons making money off me I want to avoid....
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Val, it wasnt just laws that stopped the concept, a distribution network is still needed not just a central nucleous, and like it or not, thats exactly what dealerships are. distribution and service networks. Ironically its the VERY reason fiat invested in Chrysler, now they have a ready made distribution network at their hands....and to institute one from the ground up is overly costly and time consuming....smart move really.
          turbomonkey2k
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Val, it apparently went right over your head. The manufacturer WON'T compete with the dealers. They know it's in their best interest not to. Furthermore if they only sell the electric cars directly then they aren't competing with the dealers, now are they?
          turbomonkey2k
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Val, if you'd read the original article you would know that BMW expect the I3 and I8 models to be their lowest selling through 2024. Why would dealers be opposed to not having to sell these dogs? You could re-read what I stated before but I'll put it here again. If these cars ever begin to become big sellers you can bet they will shift to being distributed through regular dealer networks. It would only make sense.
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          So if they won't compete, why would the dealers be opposed? Will they be opposed, or won't they be opposed to such sales?
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Apple has apple stores, online apple store, AND apple products are sold in BestBuy, and every large electronics retailer in US, Canada, Europe. Yes, i am very serious, yo can go and check it out. BestBuy in the US, Saturn in Germany, etc. if you don't believe me, in the same city where apple has an apple store.
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Fiat invested in chrysler for the dealer network, ok (and they shut down many dealers, which sued chrysler and got settlements), but the question is, who owns the network? Not chrysler for sure. Can chrysler own their own network, if they so desired in their inifinite stupidity? No, as long as there is a dealer in the area. Why did the dealers have that passed into law? To protect their interests? So if it somehow happens that it is in the interests of FIAT or BMW to have their own distribution network, they can repeal that law, because it is in their interest, right? And that would be OK, since it is acceptable that someone can pass laws to protect their interest.
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          @turbomonkey2k Ok, so IF the manufacturers don't want to deal with the customer, if it doesn't really matter for low volume cars, why the outcry from dealers and Dean (who I can only assume is a dealer). Why the sentence at the end says "Here in the U.S., it is highly unlikely that such a model will be implemented. Both Ford and General Motors explored creating direct, online sales channels in the U.S. a decade ago, but those experiments went nowhere, due to state franchise laws and universal opposition to the idea among dealers."??? Why are the dealers opposed to this, if companies don't want to deal with customers, and if customers will surely get the shaft from them? And they can have a much better deal at the dealers? remove those state laws and let's see what the ignorant customer will choose.
          turbomonkey2k
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Val, as I understand it there are no laws preventing the direct sale of automobiles to customers unless there is a franchised dealer network. Dealers will always be relevant for any mass produced car. I don't see these electric cars as competing with what I consider to be "real" BMWs. More to the point- if the manufacturer doesn't make the vehicles available to franchisees then they are not competing against the franchisees. Now mark my words. If these electric cars catch on, and I'm betting on about a 30% chance that they won't, but if they DO catch on and become successful they would then be made available through dealers. Believe it or not, the manufacturer doesn't want to deal with you if at all possible. That's another of the appeals of dealerships.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          so in your mind its ok for the manufacturer to compete with its OWN distribution network .....correct?....great way to build a healthy relationship....example APPLE competing with its own APPLE stores??????????....are you actually serious?.....
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Fiat invested in chrysler for the dealer network, ok (and they shut down many dealers, which sued chrysler and got settlements), but the question is, who owns the network? Not chrysler for sure. Can chrysler own their own network, if they so desired in their inifinite stupidity? No, as long as there is a dealer in the area. Why did the dealers have that passed into law? To protect their interests? So if it somehow happens that it is in the interests of FIAT or BMW to have their own distribution network, they can repeal that law, because it is in their interest, right? And that would be OK, since it is acceptable that someone can pass laws to protect their interest.
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @turbomonkey2k
        BINGO.....there will be backlash from the dealers for sure.
      Shahul X
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just make all cars one price.. You don't negotiate on anything but cars. I used to work at best buy before I started in the car biz. People would be happy to pay $3k over cost on a $4999 plasma tv at 2.9% for 24 months, but they wanted their Honda for below cost and 0% for 60... Yea...
      adam512
      • 2 Years Ago
      It is a bit of a stupid idea. Part of buying a car is the dealership experience. Getting demos on the car and seeing the car in person before you buy. Even if you were going to go to the dealers to see the car but still buy it online , why not let a human being process your sale, maybe give you a bit of discount or extras and explain everything through properly instead of ringing customer service for about 3 hours! Silly idea. Silly Car
      Zoom
      • 2 Years Ago
      New cars should be sold online. Dealers make all their profit on used cars and service anyway. However, many buyers have no idea what they want. Sure, we posters know what we want, but the vast majority have no clue and don't care. See Camry sales for proof.
      RocketRed
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just because somebody is selling cars or paperclips online does not mean they should not be sold in person. Dealerships are trying to make a buck, let them continue to try. The problem with car sale is that the dealers are the ones preventing the alternative sales channel. If someone wants to pay list price and have the car show up in their driveway the next day, they should have that choice. If you want to go spend 4 hours in a sweating match with the sales person as he disappears for 20 minutes at a time to "talk to his manager" to get a deal, then you should be able to do that. Let a hundred flowers bloom. The problem with the current model is not just that some modes of sale are illegal, it's that it stifles choice and selection. The dealer won't give you a deal if they have to order something, or they don't have it in their allocation and won't be able to order it, so no dice. Why should you have to scour the web for a car with your ideal color and equipment and drive 100 miles to get it?
      Frisky_Dingo
      • 2 Years Ago
      All you people advocating this are stupid. You do realize by cutting out that 'shady-ass middle man stealership' you've guaranteed yourself MSRP pricing and wholesale value on you trade right?? Yeah, no of course you don't, because you haven't an iota of a clue as to what you're talking about. And hey, while we're at it, let's bring down Wal-Mart and buy our noodles directly from Top Ramen. Screw those shysters Dillard's. Let's just buy our clothes direct from the retailer. Who needs to try them on for sizing, right?? Why does Tire Rack exist?? Them with all their helpful information and stuff....how dare them. Why can't I just buy my tires from Bridgestone?? Hell, why does ANY retail out let exist?? What a stupid idea......
        AnalogJesse
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Frisky_Dingo
        If you think trading your car in is a good idea when money is a factor, then you're already missing the point.
      Kumar
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can get my Twinkies on from the shop attached to the Hostess plant up the street, so why can't I buy my Subaru directly from the plant up the road? Car companies could conceivably accomplish this by requesting changes in franchising laws in a state as part of a deal in locating a plant there. If a plant were considered a dealership for the model it produces in that state, then you could conceivably buy your car direct from the plant, and travel there to pick up your new ride.
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Kumar
        good luck on negotiating and will you drop your trade in off at the factory as well, along with the car for any servicing needs or issues, whos going to finance you....etc etc etc.....I expect a BIG backlash from dealers about BMW deciding to only supply them with the cars they decide to...selective inventories?....
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        nyte3k
        • 2 Years Ago
        Jobs shift, disappear, and are created over time, this is one of those times. I'm sure blacksmiths didn't like when companies started mass producing products...it's life. And besides, this opens the door for newer jobs like software engineering, QA, management, graphic design, etc. As a software engineer I always hear how people think I'm in the business of eliminating jobs...but I think of it as shifting jobs. Honestly, if your job is repetitive, mundane, and can be easily done by anyone with a little bit of training, a robot should be doing it. Humans should spend their time working jobs that utilize human characteristics such as reason, emotion, and ingenuity, not connecting widget 1 to widget 2. As far as dealerships vs online sales, that's where convenience comes in. The same average joe who worked at Circuit City/CompUSA/Linens-N-Things/Blockbuster, was the same average joe who shopped/shops at Amazon.com. You cannot ignore change to appease a stagnant attitude.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @nyte3k
          WMB......ding ding ding......
          • 2 Years Ago
          @nyte3k
          [blocked]
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        HEY, WMB is BMW backwards.......hmmmmm
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          [blocked]
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        POST OF THE FRIGGEN WEEK.....
        Val
        • 2 Years Ago
        It's the fellow human being that wants cheaper stuff, nobody is stopping people from going to dealerships or brick-and-mortar stores like best buy, but amazon is proving that certain things are quite suitable to online sales. That kinda proves that one can exist without the other. Online sales create jobs in shipping centers, in logistics and deliveries, in IT. Who says that a smug dealer's job is some kind of sacred cow, and while people in construction, steel making etc get sacked, dealers MUST continue to operate? Sure, they lobbied hard and passed laws that makes them a pretty special interest group, but the same way those protections and privileges were given, they can be taken away.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          sense of entitlement val?....seriously?.....let me ask you this, if you wish to visit the dealership purely for educational, touchy feely, demo etc etc, and that dealer has now basically just become a cater to those that need backrubs....how do they afford to keep the doors open for their 300 or so employess. Health insurance, retirement funds, pay their tax revenue to local counties...etc etc etc ...I'll tell you how. If, as you wish they become purely botiques for perusal the re-imbursement will come from the manufacturer, so, how is THAt absorbed, a few ways, one is HIGHER MSRPS, 2 is higher service costs, 3 higher parts costs....happier now? All because of your fear of certain over exagerated dealer practices and fixation on convienience...like I said, careful what you wish for....there are MILLIONS of jobs dependent on the very industry people seem fixated on circumventing...and the dis-dain for small business's is humourous, especially watching campaign trails targeting that very audience.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          weird, hopefully this isnt a double post....Val, 300 employees is easy for a dealership, theres porters, gardners, cleaners, technicians, service writers, Management, Office clientel, DMV clerks, sales, body shop, Parts employees, drivers, shuttle services, detailers....perifials, tax advisors, legal assistants, uniform cleaners, suppliers....ok, so take away everything but the showroom...want service drive somewhere else ( little inconvienient no ) now overheads include just power, IT techs, gas, flooring, land lease, Building costs and upkeep, gardners, detailers, sales reps or "clerks " as they are now called, Management, business office, tax consultants etc etc...havent really saved that much really have we. AND asa mnaufacturer we are obligated to have service centers and Factory approved Body shop as well, so why NOT be under one roof? Thats CERTAINLY more conveinient and isnt that what we are trying to acheive anyways? Youve lost me.
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Exactly, because it is the second biggest buy in one's life, I will go to BMW's showroom in the mall or some fancy street, sit inside, feel everything, maybe arrange for a test drive, and when I am satisfied, I will click the enter button. And then one sunny day, arranged beforehand, my new car will arrive on a trailer in front of my house, with a QUALIFIED person there to show me how it works, and to tell me where to take the car if there are any issues. What if I already work for the Geek Squad? If that's what you hope for, I hope you lose your job as wall and have to live in an old fridge carton. There, happy now?
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          VAl, theres a HUGE difference behind the latest Blu-ray release of Pirates of the Carribean and a $50,000 vehicle. Hopefully next time you push enter to purchase a vehicle, you will expect to be treated exactly the same way as someone that hit the enter button online. A car is the 2nd biggest investment of your lifetime,its NOT a shiny disc bought convieniently at the swipe of a button. Does Amazon send someone to show you how to use the disc?....I hope you someday lose your job to the Geek Squad...see how you feel then.
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          What are you smoking man??? Give some of that stuff this way, it seems really strong! Why would a showroom need 300 people personnel? And if a manufacturer has an MSRP, and a dealer can go 4000 below MSRP, that is where the money for the tens of people in a showroom owned by the MANUFACTURER will come from, the money saved from dealer discounts to move stale inventory. Since a showroom doesn't really have any revenue, they don't pay taxes on that, so there you go.
          MacProMan
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          Val seems insensitive to the dealers potential plight, that's a shame. There are serious implications with pure online sales and it's certainly not as simple as he sees it. I for one feel that dealers and most stores should not be used for product demo purposes only to purchase online for a slightly lower price. That's almost as low as buying something at Costco or REI to use it and then return it because you can get away with it. Shame on those people. The dealers deserve a fair profit just as much as anyone selling a product so just because the price is negotiable doesn't mean you should get it near cost. Amazon from what I hear uses bullying business tactics and ultimately the more powerful the company gets the more greedy they seem to become. They use their massive pocket books to intimidate/eliminate the competition. Not a fan of them really either. Some dealers are run well with fair deals and practices, others aren't unfortunately. Get up and leave if your dealer is dicking you around but know what you are talking about when it comes to what's a good deal and don't just assume you get a discount... That is all.
          Lucid Renegade
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          "sense of entitlement val?....seriously?.....let me ask you this, if you wish to visit the dealership purely for educational, touchy feely, demo etc etc, and that dealer has now basically just become a cater to those that need backrubs...." Throw in a hand job and I might just go back to buying from a dealer.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Val
          [blocked]
      BRKF06
      • 2 Years Ago
      Would love it. I order my cars and arrange everything online anyway. I don't set foot in a dealership. You can still negotiate online. I'm paying $1500 below invoice (not MSRP) for my new BMW: all arranged online. When I've done ED it's been an even steeper discount.
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BRKF06
        good for you, probably delivered to you door with a masseuse as well.....$1500 below sounds great untill you find out the delivering dealer has a $4000 incentive from BMW. Numbers are numbers, a business is a business, beleive me, they wont lose money to appese your www.com mentality. Convienience is cool though, problem is when you have to actually contact someone live.....screens only cater so far.....
          Hans Wee
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Val give up. its obvious dean is a moron.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          protecting their investment Val, simple as that....how would YOU personally react if YOU had invested 10's of millions for a Manufacturer only to be slapped in the face like this....
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          and Hans, you are clueless, if thats all you can add then please, keep it to yourself and get back to your game of Warcraft.
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          What is there to protect? Obviously, according to you, dealers offer better prices, better service and better user experience, why rely on protectionism then? Would the dealers have invested millions if their business wasn't protected by law? Probably not.
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          if dealers are so good for the customer and so beneficial, why don't they just let manufacturers sell directly? Surely, customers will realize that online sales and support sucks, and will come crying back to the dealers, right? So why not lift those protectionist laws put in place by lobbying? What are they afraid of?
          Val
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Is there anything you won't compare the importance of dealerships to? My retirement, my job, maybe my health insurance, why not proclaim that dealers are the single most important thing in any persons life, make that into law, nay AMEND THE CONSTITUTION, proclaiming the vital role of a dealership to a person's existence.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Val, its called vested interest, much like your retirement.....how would you like THAt to suddenly go away?.........hmmmm, shoe meet other foot.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          good one Flacid, I mean lucid...
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Val, its not my beleif in the importance of dealers, its my witness of how people think them going away would improve things, its the exact opposite, dealers compete against one another, take that away, make everything manufacturer owned, now the balls in THEIR court, your leverage just went bye bye, and its their way or the highway...ironically thats very GERMAN. Its blatantlyobvious you see no worth in the money invested in their franchaises purely to appese clientel....you would rather see them go away for what you perceive as a better business plan. So, much like I have said, how would you like it if an outside party with power ( lets say GOVT ) cleaned out YOUR retirement because they thought they had a better plan...thats disregard for your investment no?...same principle. Beleive it or not, dealers protect you through competition, on your right to avoid price fixation...but obviously, judging by some commentary here, fear of dealerships and potential convienience trumps ones ability to potentially save some money, like Ive also said, welcome to the dot com mentality. Nothing against you or your thought process, but after 25 years in the retail sales side of business, I DO ( warts and all ) understand the worth and importance of privately owned enterprizes, of which car dealerships are one..
          BRKF06
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Um... I know how much the car is costing the dealer. He's making a modest profit still. I've purchased many BMWs so all the tricks are easy to spot. If I were a current owner (ditched my last one in 2010), I'd be starting down at least another grand in discounts. Overall, the point is simple: buying online is easy and makes life so much better. The days of four square and "I'll ask my manager" are over. There's no need.
      SloopJohnB
      • 2 Years Ago
      BMW might be able to work this with overseas delivery although right now overseas delivery is still worked with your local dealer. The best thing about overseas delivery is the price is nonnegotiable.
      mimi140
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hey i would give www.unitedcarexchange.com a shot. They sold my car in a quick sale.
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