BMW Launches Site That Welcomes Consumer Input

There may be 12 days of Christmas and 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are 130 million ways to reconfigure a BMW. The company's North American arm has launched a new consumer Web site that lets consumers configure a vehicle in highly specific ways.

The site also has features that seem more like social-networking sites, with areas that allow consumers to upload videos. The site will also be linked to BMW Assist--which is an in-vehicle telematics and assistance program like GM's OnStar--and Financial Services.

Said Jack Pitney, vice president of marketing, BMW of North America, in a release: "Today, a Web site can't just be a static, generic round-up of information. We know that to be valued by our customers--and our potential customers--we need to work hard to provide them the information they want and need, and nothing that they don't."

The Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based company says consumers will also be able to talk to each other and leave reviews, ratings and comments, making the site what BMW hopes will be an online community of enthusiasts, as well as a 360-degree marketing kiosk for configuring, ordering, buying, and servicing BMW cars.



The company will build customized elements based on five user personas. Later in 2008, visitors link to dealer-installed accessories.

Karl Brauer, editor in chief of consumer automotive buying and research Web site, says BMW learned from its diminutive sibling. "They are catching up the BMW site with the Mini site, which has all those things. I think the Mini Web site, with its level of success and traffic, has inspired BMW. Mini's customer is younger and more tech-savvy, but I think it's a trend that's unavoidable," he says. "Automakers realize the use of the Internet in car-buying is fact of life."

He says that if BMW's site is unique, it's because it pulls together in one place community, pricing, "deep" configuration, and financing, even telematics. "And you can feel it's authoritative because it's the manufacturer's Web site."

"You still need third-party information on evaluation of individual models, but they are smart to provide the other elements; for those who want a BMW, it's smart to allow people to come back and get it all on one Web site."

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