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Think aftersales, BMW tells dealers

BMW is urging dealers to expand their aftersales facilities or set up satellite operations to absorb mounting demand for servicing and repairs. But the company says it is also prepared to approve independent operations in areas where dealers are not willing to make the necessary investment, as long as they meet its standards of service.

Predicted growth in new and used BMWs and Minis over the next two years will leave the current network with a 40 per cent shortfall in aftersales capacity. “Our existing dealer sites are being stretched and most will have to look for additional space to meet servicing demand,” says BMW corporate communications director Chris Willows.

“We expect dealers will want to capitalise on the aftersales opportunity, which is a highly profitable area of the business. But we are not bothered about approving independents to absorb capacity providing they offer exactly the same standards of customer satisfaction, which we will be measuring.”

The decision to approve independents pre-empts expected changes to block exemption, which will open up the aftermarket. Other manufacturers will also need to establish clear values for dealers and independents to meet to ensure quality standards remain high.

BMW dealers will also have to invest in their showrooms to accommodate a growing range of new cars - the 1-series and X3 are launched in 2004. Standalone showrooms for Mini are also a distinct possibility.

“Most dealers have put Mini into a separate area of their BMW showroom, but business is providing to be more sustainable with higher volumes than they had anticipated,” says Willows. “But we aren't going to have a business revolution where we are pushing dealers into making unnecessary investment in palaces - we want a pragmatic solution.”

BMW is forecasting to retail more than 100,000 BMWs by 2004, compared to around 80,000 last year. It also expects to sell 30,000 Minis and 60,000 used cars. The need to satisfy customer demand is intensified by BMW's all-inclusive servicing packages on Mini (TLC) and 7-series (Concours), which will be added to new models.

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