BMW To Use Geniuses Like Apple--To Sell i3 Electric Cars

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BMW i3 Coupe concept

BMW i3 Coupe concept

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If you've ever bought a car, you might have experienced the frustration that comes with a sales person who doesn't really know about the car they're selling.

That's not an experience you'll have had in an Apple retail store though, where the Genius Bar program provides product experts to hand out advice and technical support for your product.

Soon, you'll get a similar experience in BMW dealerships, with the "BMW Genius Everywhere" program.

Trialled in the UK last year, the program is now being launched all over Europe--and a pilot program in the States will begin later this year, before full rollout in 2014.

Automotive News Europe reports the program places specially-trained employees in dealerships, armed with iPads.

They won't be responsible for selling cars, and they'll earn a salary rather than the typical commission on car sales. Instead, they'll be there to inform shoppers about vehicles, help them choose options and features, and generally improve the buying experience. If a customer wants to take the next step, they're handed over to a salesman.

That'll be particularly important when one particular BMW product rolls into dealerships--the i3 electric and range-extended electric cars. BMW wants a "critical mass" of Geniuses before the i3 arrives in early 2014, ready to inform customers on the car's powertrain and features.

Peter Miles, BMW of North America's vice president of operations, says every BMW dealership will be required to have a Genius.

That shouldn't be a hardship for dealers. In the UK's trials, dealers have found that Genius-aided customers tend to equip their vehicles better, and the cost of extra staff is negligible when the improved customer satisfaction is considered.

Lexus and Cadillac already offer similar services, but it's the introduction of the i3 line that will really put BMW's Geniuses to the test. Video and audio experiences will be included in the program.

"The strategy is to make our knowledge about our brand more interesting and more accessible to the consumer" said Miles.

iPhone and iPad apps will also be available, ensuring the customer is fully up to speed on the new technology. BMW is keen to inform customers of the engineering that goes into the car, rather than selling a car based purely on price.

One might say, given the expected elevated cost of the i3, that some knowledge of the engineering and design will attract customers despite the price...


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