Recently I asked a BMW dealer in New York for a brochure on a new car. "Brochure?" he asked. "Try an iPad." It hasn't quite come to that everywhere, although this particular dealer did divulge that his store no longer gave out current-year model line booklets, even though BMW would provide them. "It saves us money," he said. Then, as an afterthought, added, "It's good for the environment."

Most telling, though, was the suggestion that I seek out the data online via an iPad. (I guess the salesman just assumed I owned one-doesn't everyone?)

Apple's hot device is becoming the automaker's tool for the future, rapidly establishing itself in the present. Consider these developments in just the past three months since the various flavors of iPad went on sale:

  • For salespeople in Mercedes-Benz stores, the company's financial division, called MB Advantage, has designed a tool that uses the iPad to access information on specific models, financing and incentive data for potential purchasers, and even the ability to process credit applications;

  • Volkswagen has launched "Das," which stands for digital automotive space, as an iPad app. The app contains some of the VW promotional material found in its customer magazine, "Das Auto." Infiniti has said that it also plans to offer an iPad app focused on its handsome consumer magazine, Adeyaka.

  • At the New York International Auto Show in March, Hyundai went gaga for iPad, announcing it would equip its new flagship sedan, the Equus, with an iPad instead of a printed owner's manual when the car is launched in September.

Expect more auto-related apps for the iPad to complement the slew of racing and game apps already available.

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