How do you get more bang for your buck when selling plug-in vehicles? BMW thinks the answer is blowing in the Internet.

For the first time ever, BMW will sell some of its cars online – and it turns out that it's the electric cars that prompted the change. BMW's i brand vehicles, which currently include the i3, i8 and i8 Spyder (pictured) concepts, will be sold online. But wait, you're saying, didn't the automaker just open up a fancy new EV story in London? Yes, it did, but it's more of a technology showcase kind of thing right now, especially since the first target on-sale date for an i brand vehicle is late 2013 anyway.

Given that, as the Detroit News reports, BMW is spending $3 billion to bring the i3 and i8 to market, being able to save an estimated five-to-seven percent through online sales compared to traditional showroom costs is a big deal. Those are the numbers that one analyst gave the News, but the caveat is that the details of how the online sales will work are not yet defined. For instance, even though plug-in vehicle buyers tend to be younger and more connected than average (though there are sweet exceptions), how do you deal with test drives? The News says that a "roaming sales force" could be used, which sounds to us a lot like the EV demo tours that other companies have used. BMW was willing to say that sales will be targeted at "major urban areas."

Some current BMW dealers will be allowed to have (and sell) the i brand vehicles on the lot. Basically, the dealer will need to be selling a lot of BMWs already and have the space for the i brand information displays. That's likely to be around 20-25 percent of all BMW dealers.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 21 Comments
      JakeY
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think most depositors accept that risk based on the car Not a lot of people are willing to put up a $5000 deposit in the first place (even if it was in a escrow).
      Rotation
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm glad they're going to sell them. I hope they mean sell, not closed-end lease. Otherwise I'm withholding judgement until I see what happens.
      Rotation
      • 3 Years Ago
      I agree. It's a recipe for trouble. But hey, the unwitting public is a very resilient source of capital.
      Rick
      • 3 Years Ago
      Electic car will be about as much use as a chocolate teapot in India at the moment. Lots of countries around the globe like Germany, UK, & Japan are heading for blackouts in the next few years as electric supply can't meet demand. Electric car will be as welcome as the bubonic plague in India at the moment.
        brotherkenny4
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rick
        I think you hope that they are headed for blackouts. That would be a good problem to have compared to the alternative. Increased electricity demand is a measure of economic growth. I am not sure your prediction will come true with respect to that electric supply difficulty. Maybe if you consider the decrepitude of the grids themselves (then blackouts may occur), but demand may not grow as fast as some might expect based on past trends. On a side note, the batteries needed for EVs can act as backup energy in a pinch. So, some people may be blacked out, but some will not be. Combined with solar, ones dependence on the abilities of the grid suppliers gets significantly lessened. But then, that's the feared end isn't it?
      Nick
      • 3 Years Ago
      They copied that from Tesla. Can't wait to see more electric cars on the road, and I'm glad BMW put its money where its mouth is..........
      Jon
      • 3 Years Ago
      I thought automakers were legally married to dealerships. Is that just US automakers? Or was that specifically GM?
      Ugo Sugo
      • 3 Years Ago
      It is moving how automakers are spending so many BILLIONS to bring us "affordable" electric cars! Wait a moment, didn't Tesla manage to industrialize the Models S for less than a billion starting from scratch? I wonder if all those billions are real (most likely not) or they are wisely spent in executive bonuses and awesome marketing.
        Nick
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ugo Sugo
        Good point. Why could Tesla do it for so little and from scratch (they didn't even have a facotry not long ago!) in just a couple years...and not the established guys?
        Letstakeawalk
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ugo Sugo
        Tesla is using the deposits of buyers to finance its operation. That could end... badly. "Like many clean-energy start-ups with ambitious goals, Tesla is consuming large amounts of money as it develops its electric cars. For most of its nine-year existence, the carmaker, whose earlier Roadster sports car attracted the likes of George Clooney and Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, has mainly relied on the federal government and stock investors for money. Now, Tesla is increasingly using customer down payments to finance operations. Without the deposits, the company’s operations would have consumed $175 million of cash last year instead of $114 million." "Contract or not, customers may not have much protection should Tesla face a cash squeeze. Once the money is deposited with the company, Tesla can use the bulk of it to finance its regular operations, rather than walling it off in segregated accounts. Should the company run into real financial trouble, customers may not be able to recover their money because they will be behind major creditors like the federal government. Tesla itself discusses the risks of not segregating its cash in its latest annual report. For instance, the company says it has to separate funds that come from customers in Washington State, so far a relatively small market for the company. In the annual report, Tesla adds: “There can be no assurance that other state or foreign jurisdictions will not require similar segregation of reservation payment received from customers. Our inability to access these funds for working capital purposes could harm our liquidity.” http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/teslas-ambitions-fueled-by-customer-down-payments/ I think Tesla has a good product, and they've certainly got customers willing to buy it. However, if some unpredictable issue happens, there could be some real problems for those who've made deposits.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      If this means that you can only take your electric BMW in to 20-25% of BMW garages it is not very good news, no matter how they put fancy internet spin on it.
        Rotation
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Don't sweat that mention too much. Every car company says this with every new line and halo car. It doesn't last long. It just turns out that there are very few ways car makers can cajole dealerships into doing what they want, like spending money on renovations. So they dangle these things in front of the dealers. They rapidly get rolled out to all dealers except the smallest ones as the car company looks to increase sales.
      Spiffster
      • 3 Years Ago
      i8 Spyder... wow, just, wow...
        Peter
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spiffster
        ain't going to look like that and few will be able to afford when eventually they produce it but yeah it is a very sexy concept
      Ele Truk
      • 3 Years Ago
      Getting a 2 billion dollar NUMMI plant for $50 million goes a long way to making the car without investing billions. Tesla probably couldn't have made it without the generous support of Toyota. Although conceivably they could have gone the same route as Fisker for manufacturing without a plant.
      Nick
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's a source of dangers for depositors, but then again, Tesla has 10,000+ people waiting to buy its cars, so there's a very high chance that a lot of cash will come in next year.
      • 3 Years Ago
      NIce Cars for the environment :) http://goo.gl/Qpfyp
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X