It seems like a no-brainer given that we buy everything else online. Yet franchise agreements make the idea of buying a car direct or via the internet impossible in most countries. However BMW UK have cracked the code similar to what Tesla has done. Of course this begs the question, will the US follow? BMW’s franchise partners (i.e. the dealers) would have to be onboard in a big way – not something we expect any time soon.

Official Release: BMW today launches a unique end-to-end buying solution for its cars. Now BMW customers will be able to handle all aspects of the car buying process online wherever and whenever they want to. With just a few clicks, prospective BMW owners can build their perfect car online, arrange a test drive if necessary, agree financing options and payment method, and get a trade-in value for their own car before finalising the delivery date.

Previously new car buyers had been able to do some of the car buying process online, but now they are able to sit back and do it all from the comfort of their own home, at a time of their choosing, courtesy of BMW Retail Online. Every step can also be supported by a BMW Genius or a sales executive at the retailer via live chat or email.

News of this announcement coincides with general purchasing trends for all types of goods increasingly moving to the web. Online global commerce is expected to reach US$2.5 trillion by 2020. This trend is reflected in the car industry with 97 per cent of buyers researching their car purchase online and customers now visiting a retailer an average just 1.4 times before completing their purchase. This compares to an average of four visits per purchase in 1998. Industry research also indicates that nearly half of all buyers would consider buying online.

Ian Robertson, Member of the Board for Sales and Marketing, said: “We are the first car manufacturer to offer a digital sales solution for the entire product range and the full end-to-end buying or leasing process online. Now, the customer can do it all from the comfort of their home. The integration of the BMW Genius via live chat and retailer messaging functions where the customer is able to get personalised support in real time, makes this system unique and a new benchmark for the automotive industry.”

Though the buying process can all be done online, a level of human interaction is still vital to provide personal guidance and peace of mind for the customer when required. Multi-channel chat options (webchat or email) mirror the in-showroom BMW Genius experience and are offered from 8am to 10pm.

Before being rolled out nationally, BMW Retail Online was trialled with nine UK retailers and proved such a success that 95 per cent of BMW UK retailers have decided to offer this service to their customers.

Nigel Hurley, Sytner Group BMW Divisional Managing Director, whose retail outlet took part in the trial, said: “This is great news for retailers. It forms part of our ever more customer-centric focus and makes life easier for the customer. We see this becoming an increasingly important channel in the future.”

There are six key features to BMW Retail Online. The online journey starts with the optional tool “Find your BMW”, leading into the vehicle configurator on With a click on the “Buy your BMW” button the customer selects a retailer, is shown cars with a faster delivery date and selects their preferred finance method. The customer can then finalise all steps of the purchase with their chosen retailer in the Retailer Online showroom.

The key elements in more detail are:

  • Find your BMW (Optional needs analyser)
    — Helps customers find the ideal vehicle for their needs
    — 4 simple questions to select the right car:
  • Where do you drive?
  • How many people ride in your car?
  • What needs to fit in your boot?
  • What’s important to you?
    — Suggests preconfigured cars with options most bought by other customers in the UK.

  • Genius live-chat
    — Personal support
    — Webchat or email
    — Opening hours from 8am-10pm, 7days a week

  • Vehicle configuration/ Check Delivery Times
    — Fully configure a car, or
    — Get a proposal for a pre-built car with faster availability

  • Finance offer
    — Full integration of BMW Financial services
    — Easy-to-use finance calculator
    — All national offers are included online

  • Retailer Online showroom
    — Chat with a sales executive of the selected retailer
    — Arrange a test drive
    — Get independent car valuation of your vehicle
    — Finalise all elements of the purchase

  • Online credit check
    — Full online credit check with 90 seconds feedback if auto accepted
    — Payment of instalment, deposit or full price online or by phone