The initiative started earlier this year, shortly before BMW appointed Tim Abbott as sales director.
Abbott is determined to drive it forward and has put 24 people from the sales, aftersales and dealer development departments through the one-month course already.
He has experienced motor retail from both carmaker and dealer viewpoints, having co-founded Aston Green Audi and subsequently joined Sytner Group when it took over the business. “I’m keen that field-based staff should understand the problems in running a dealership, and understand that when we send out a message to the network we make sure they get that message,” Abbott says.
“The feedback we’re getting is that dealers see this as positive, that we’re listening to what they say.”
All new appointments will take a secondment. One essential element of the programme is that participants must close a new car sale for their dealership.
Abbott is working hard on improving relationships with dealers, and focusing them on growth. For 2007, BMW plans to divide volume bonuses between corporate and retail to encourage dealers to win growth from their local small and medium business base.
It is also helping the network recruit and train local business development managers, which it wants in place in the first quarter.
Abbott says growth will be driven by new product, such as X5 and 3-series convertible, rather than overloading the market with existing models.
BMW is also shifting emphasis for standards bonuses away from infrastructure towards processes and customer engagement.
“My biggest thrust will be for dealers to look at how they look after their natural customer zone, those within 30 miles of the dealership, so that those customers come back for aftersales and service,” Abbott says.