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.


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