When buying new vehicles, your first thought should be how it will affect client experiences with your company. They are likely weary from traveling and want to sit in comfort and quiet. BMW’s goal is to make the backseat of one of their cars feel like home, says Jonathan Fishkin, key account manager for VIP and Limo Sales at BMW.
The company aims to redefine how it’s perceived in luxury ground transportation. When showcasing its vehicles at tradeshows in this segment in the past, BMW focused on price points.
While important, Fishkin says he’s learned during his time in the industry that BMW needs to shift to an emphasis on high-touch customer experience. “We shouldn't be focused on price points; we should be focused on the luxury for the customer, making sure they're getting the best experience to allow operators to charge the most for the ride,” he explains.
To ensure their vehicles produce raving clients, they have to properly equip them while help operators understand how to create a complete experience. “A client can get into any car that looks great on the outside, but if they sit in it and there's nothing for them to do or experience, it won’t be memorable. That’s not really the impression I want from my brand. I want customers to be wowed every time they get into a BMW.”
Creating “seeing and feeling is believing” moments at tradeshows has helped the brand. Any time they are showcasing vehicles to the industry, they now bring the highest level of luxury available, Fishkin says. “We stopped showing the basic, less equipped models and started exhibiting fully equipped models to properly show what BMW is capable of.”
He says he gets amazing feedback whenever he displays a BMW. “Many times, they’ll say ‘I didn't know BMW did this. I thought only Mercedes did.’ That's the reaction I like the best because people know it isn’t special ordered and unobtainable.”
Fishkin hopes to host a few ride and drive events with limousine associations around the country to show them how BMW can fit into their fleets in the near future.
The automotive industry is starting to shift toward producing more SUVs, but foreign automakers like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Volvo are not dropping their sedans. Fishkin notes BMW must differentiate itself among their other European colleagues, so they’ve put together a comparable luxury package to their competitors’ at a lower price point.
“I’m not a fan of talking about price point because we are a luxury carmaker, but it can be a big deciding factor for operators, and I recognize that,” he says. The company has a livery package available on the 7-Series, one of the more widely used BMW-brand vehicles in the industry, which gives consumers the opportunity to own a very high-valued car for a reasonable price.
The Mercedes-Benz S450 4MATIC is being advertised at $89,250 with the fleet incentive, while the 7 Series with livery package is $75,465 for a 740xi and $72,675 for a 740i. For perspective, the retail costs of the livery spec cars are $96,325 for a 740i and $99,325 for a 740xi.
Understanding why customers are asking for Mercedes-Benz over different luxury brands helps BMW change its perspective and move to adapt. That means putting the right models out in front of operators at events like ride and drives. “I want to make sure people are seeing the best and making the best decision for what their business demands. Events like ride and drives will allow customers to really get a feel of what we offer.”
BMW Group expects its rollout of electrified vehicles, 25 models worldwide by 2023, to occur two years earlier than first planned. In a changing world that’s becoming more concerned with emissions and effects on the planet, Fishkin believes operators will soon start to embrace cleaner rides.
“Change is difficult. It doesn't matter if it's hybrid, electric, sedan, or SUV. It takes a while to prove to the industry it's going to be a worthwhile change to make. Plug-in hybrid vehicles and full electric vehicles serve a purpose in the industry; the trick is finding the right application for the operators to use it,” he says.
While few current electric vehicle models can replace a long-haul car, there are certain situations where they may be ideal. “If you're an executive transport company that routinely does 400 or 500 mile runs, maybe it's not the right car to be running. But if you're a city operator and you do a lot of shorter trips, there's definitely a place for hybrids and full-electric.”
The company’s upcoming all-electric vehicles, such as the i4 and the INEXT, will be quiet, low emission, and offer level three autonomous driving capabilities. These will offer more relaxed operation, reduced maintenance costs, and lower fatigue on the drivers and a greater customer experience. “Fuel cost will be dramatically decreased for the industry.”
He says the next BMW model the industry can look forward to is the iX3, which will be an all-electric vehicle coming out in 2020. It’s a mid-size SUV on the smaller side, but big enough to handle multiple passengers and luggage. It will mark the first foray into a vehicle that can support full-electric for the industry. “I think it will be a game-changer in the industry once it arrives.” The iX3 is expected to have a range of 200+ miles in European testing.
The plug-in hybrid 7-Series, the 745xe, is already on sale, and the first car of the next generation will be iX3. Current model year '20 7-Series, being the 740i, 740xi, 750xi, and 745xe, all have the new livery package available which includes amenities such as front- and rear-heated and ventilated seats, rear massaging seats, rear touch command tablet, and powered sunshades.
This package doesn't just raise the consumer experience. It also helps increase the potential residual value for the car when the operators sell it. “Managing the car's value is an important point for operators to be aware of, and I think it's something that gets overlooked,” he says.
Some operators have the wrong mentality that, “I bought a car, I'll run it until the wheels fall off, and then I'll get a new one.” The issue with this is you're not maximizing your dollar. “If you pay attention to the mileage and what the car is worth at a certain time, there's potentially more value in it to trade in or sell it privately. That's something I think operators need to be more aware of, managing the residual value.”
Future Of The Backseat
Since 2006, BMW Group has been envisioning what the interior space of the future models will be like and how they can bring the connected home environment into people's vehicles without interruption.
“It’s essentially making sure customers can get into the car and feel at home; that everything works the same way it would in their houses between the integration of technology and the comforts of where they live. I think that's something I really appreciate in the industry because you want the customers to feel that way in the back of one of your vehicles.”
Although there’s a renewed focus on passengers, BMW will never lose its driver-centric philosophy, he says. “The driver will never be bored upfront. Electric, full-electric, hybrid, gas…it's a fun car to drive and we really do stand by our ‘ultimate driving machine’ mantra when we produce the car.”
Originally posted on LCT Magazine