BMW Wants More Built-to-Order New Car Sales, 2011 X3 to Pilot Program

BMW will be implementing a new customer order program for the 2011 X3 but the custom orders won't stop there. The famous Bavarian marque will soon be pushing its U.S. dealers for more built-to-order new car sales.

Instead of picking a pre-configured car off the dealer lot, BMW customers can expect renewed pressure to lease or purchase a built-to-order vehicle. Pre-ordering a new BMW allows buyers to pick and choose desired packages and options, a process the Munich-based automaker intends to develop and mimic after its home market. Every other BMW sold in Germany is buyer-customized.

On the other side of the bargaining table, building-to-order will help dealers cut down on excess inventory, assuming enough customers flock to customization. Dealers will also be less inclined to throw cash on the hood of lot regulars that just can't seem to find a new home.

"When customers build the cars themselves, we find there's less discounting, and that's one of the biggest challenges this industry faces," said Rich Brekus, general manager of sales for BMW of North America.

To nudge the program along, BMW will start by offering exclusive options only available through customized-to-order transactions. Lessees will be a valuable target, according to Brekus, and the 2011 X3 will be a launching pad of sorts for the ordering process. After moving X3 production from Austria to Spartanburg, South Carolina, BMW anticipates order lead time to range from two to six weeks, depending on dealer location. Austria-sourced X3s, on the other hand, demand an additional three weeks for stateside delivery.

While rare in the U.S., built-to-order vehicles do exist. Lexus says two percent of its monthly deliveries are pre-ordered and only the LS 600h L luxury sedan and LFA supercar are configurable. Fellow German competitor Audi determined that more than 14 percent of its U.S.-bound vehicles were pre-configured last month.

"It's a different mentality and it can be more of a risk for a non-premium brand," said Rebecca Lindland, analyst with IHS Global Insight.

The 2011 BMW X3 will be launched in Europe this November, with U.S. sales to commence early next year. Spartanburg also builds the larger X5 and X6, two models that could potentially benefit from the revamped customization process further down the line.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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