BMW North America held its first-ever fleet preview Sept. 26-28 in Spartanburg, S.C. Attendees included 29 corporate fleet managers and fleet management company (FMC) representatives. The event included a ride-and-drive (which featured the new 3 Series model), a tour of the BMW assembly plant, and a half-day driver training session at the BMW Performance Center, both in Spartanburg. Fleet presentations were also given on BMW’s capabilities in assisting global fleets and an update on the company’s sustainability initiatives, in particular its forthcoming i sub-brand of products, which will feature the all-electric i3 and the plug-in hybrid i8.
You can see a gallery of photos from the event here.
Last August, BMW launched its Executive Preference Program (EPP) for its BMW and Mini brands, following a two-year pilot program. BMW’s EPP includes zero-cost maintenance for four years/50,000 miles, roadside assistance for four years, a safety program, fleet-trained personnel at dealerships, and special fleet pricing. The EPP is available for U.S. and Canadian fleets, but does not extend to Mexico. Out of the 300-plus BMW dealers in the U.S., approximately 210 have voluntarily enrolled in the EPP.
Fleet Manager Reactions
The corporate fleet preview was favorably received by fleet managers attending the event.
“With no exaggeration, the BMW event was probably the highlight of my career in fleet management. Events included a museum tour, factory tour, executive presentations, and several driving events,” said Scott Lauer, manager, U.S. fleet administration for Merck & Co. “BMW outdid itself without spending a ton of money. It was all about the cars and it was superbly fun.”
Merck is an EPP customer and places BMW models on its Canadian and Puerto Rican executive selectors in North America. Merck also has a global agreement with BMW and purchases many of these units for its drivers in Europe.
Another pharmaceutical industry attendee was Lee Miller, senior manager, fleet services for Boehringer Ingelheim.
“BMW’s first fleet preview meeting was impressive. It is great to know BMW is committed to supporting executive fleet customers for the long term,” said Miller. “As a customer with a large executive fleet, it was important for me to know that BMW is aligned to support fleet for the future. BMW is steadily capturing more of the volume in our executive fleet.”
One of the highlights of the fleet preview was a tour of the 4.73-million-square-foot production facility in Spartanburg. This was the first BMW manufacturing plant located outside of Germany. All X3, X5, and X6 models sold worldwide by BMW are built at the Spartanburg assembly plant, which makes BMW the largest exporter of automobiles in the U.S. The plant produces approximately 1,000 vehicles per day.
“Being able to tour the plant where the SUVs are made gave me a whole different prospective of the BMW brand. It really makes you appreciate their vehicles when you see it all come together,” said David Anderson, senior fleet & travel manager for Pamlab, L.L.C.
Following the plant tour, attendees were given the opportunity to hone their driving skills at the $12 million BMW Performance Center. The event at the Performance Center track included professional driving instructors who trained attendees on how to improve their driving skills.
Also attending the event were representatives from 10 FMCs. There was, likewise, positive feedback from FMC representatives about the BMW fleet preview.
“From an FMC standpoint, I think BMW has built a great fleet team by choosing professionals who worked most of their careers providing solutions on the fleet management side with many clients,” said Mark Conroy, VP sales & marketing for Union Leasing. “They know how to sell value and they understand what’s important to corporations.” Conroy added that “the entire Spartanburg experience with the Performance Center and manufacturing facility was phenomenal.”
Assistance for Global Fleets
BMW also used the fleet preview to discuss its global capabilities. Attending the preview were six executives from the BMW AG corporate headquarters in Munich. In a presentation at the Zentrum Museum adjacent to the BMW manufacturing facility, Erhard Kirsch, head of international corporate sales for BMW AG, explained to attendees BMW’s international corporate sales organization. BMW Group international corporate sales organization is staffed by international key account managers, who assist in developing an international corporate sales agreement, along with providing support for specific national agreements around the globe.
“There are six people in charge of worldwide growth of international fleet sales,” said Kirsch. “A dedicated international key account manager can help a fleet manager set up business relationships with the global BMW network of subsidiaries and dealers to optimize their company’s international fleet.”
In a second presentation, Peter Krams, engineer for Mini E for BMW AG, discussed the forthcoming BMW i sub-brand, which will include the all-electric i3 and plug-in hybrid i8.
During the three-day event, attendees had an opportunity to exchange ideas and ask questions of the BMW AG representatives, which was highly rated by attending fleet managers.
“We have a number of executives who drive BMWs as part of our executive fleet, so being able to interact and speak with the people from the BMW corporate offices in Munich was a great experience. Having these experts on hand to discuss the vehicles, BMW fleet sales, and future products was invaluable,” said Shawn Dusosky, manager – fleet financial services for General Mills.