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BMW’s new U.S. boss wants to repair relationships with US dealerships

News | November 22nd, 2011 by 13
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In the past years, the relationship between BMW of North America and its US dealerships has been challenging at times. Even though not widely advertised …

In the past years, the relationship between BMW of North America and its US dealerships has been challenging at times. Even though not widely advertised in the media or other circles, the truth remains that BMW dealerships have grown to be dissatisfied with how business was conducted by BMWNA, therefore leading to bruised relations between the two parties.

Having spent years running dealerships and leading the BMW car sales in 28 European countries, outside Germany, Ludwig Willisch, the new BMW boss, plans to build a bridge to dealers. From 1979 to 1995, Willisch worked at an Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche group dealership in Germany in retail and wholesale sales. For Automotive News, Willisch, who has been in the job since Oct. 1, says he wants to have “the most satisfied customers and to be the most motivated team” in the luxury car segment.

First step is to keep the dealerships closer to the decision making process.

BMWs new U.S. boss wants to repair relationships with US dealerships

Willisch, 55, replaced Jim O’Donnell, who led the company through a long and rough recession. O’Donnell was faced with tough decisions that led slashed lease volume, reduced incentive spending and cut the warranty labor reimbursement. He also lowered the base dealer margin and made dealer bonuses harder to earn.

But one common complaint we have heard from BMW dealerships is the lack of communication with the headquarters. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Dealer Attitude Survey, on the question of how well dealer input is considered, BMW and MINI ranked last.

People close to Willisch describe him as a hands-on individual that likes to be on the road and meet personally with employees and business partners. One of his first actions as CEO was calling Damon Shelly, chairman of the BMW National Dealer Forum, as well as spending time on the road visiting BMW and MINI dealers.

For same publication Willisch says “I can put myself into a dealer’s shoes. I can say, ‘This is the issue and our view on it and how can we get this sorted out?'”

BMW is currently leading in the premium sales for the US market and aims to finish first, ahead of Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. The sales for 2011 have been continuously increasing, despite the company spending 10 percent less on incentives than it did in 2010.

An equally interesting and encouraging fact is that Willisch also ran the M performance unit for two years.

[Source: Automotive News ]

  • Manny Antunes

    Knowing what I know of Willisch and his work ethic, we’re all excited as to what the future of BMW in the US will hold. 

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DLREODTYU2R7QIRUR5DSA2MW5A bfd853

    This is all well and good, but does this guy have the power to bring in the
    F10 5 Series wagon aka touring?! Good Luck!

    • Manny Antunes

      He does indeed!

      • Bfd853

        We shall see. If he has any “pull,” who knows, we mjght see the F10 wagon, 1 Series five door hatchback like the 123d, or perhaps a F30 320d. Or maybe I’m just dreaming….

  • LaMa

    well, the diesels will not come to US shore and rightfully so. Diesel fuel price went over the acceptable rate. It is 20-25% more then the normal gas price, so not much savings there.
    This leaves us with the new 4cyl turbo engines which are great !   The new V6 line will no doubt replace the inline 6’s soon and that means the family of engines will power BMW’s from 1 to 7 incl. X and Z models.
    They will share a lot more parts then the current 4-I6-V8-V12 engines do.
    Wagons are cool and great but Americans look at them as grocery getters – which in reality all cars are.
    its a shame as the wagon is a much better alternatives then the SAV’s or Crossovers which BMW invented with the X5.
    They are oke for some but the wagons are more practical and better driver cars. I’d love to see them back.

    • Guest

      Diesel prices will fluctuate with peaks and valleys. What many BMW enthusiasts want is the option to purchase the European diesels.

    • Bfd853

      it is true that diesel prices are higher here in the states. Further, our infrastructure is not designed for diesel fuel e.g., places like costco don’t sell diesel.

      As for wagons, its true that Americans prefer suvs, but then bmw goes and replaces its wagon with that GT thing – haha, Mercedes is laughing all the way go the bank…

  • Guest

    But the dealerships all want us to give automatics and with little individuality. If it were up to the dealerships, we would never see the light of a 1-series hatch, smaller diesel engines or manual transmissions. Proceed with caution.

    • Ulrich Diederich

      Agreed, a sea of black and silver cars with automatics. Good thing there is an easy way around it: just order your car the way you want it.

  • gcreese

    When BMW USA made changes to the 3 series in March 2011 (e.g., doing away with the Sport Package, changing the wheels on the M Sport Package), my dealership was clueless about the changes. By following Bimmerfest, I knew more than they did. It was clear that BMW USA was not communicating early and often, and reconfiguring my European Delivery car was a lot more aggravating than it needed to be. Mr. Willisch should be able to fix this, as the only direction it can go is up.

  • Larry Kavall

    LUDWIG ALWAY WANTED TO PROVE BMW IS THE BEST. LEASE USED HIGH MILAGE CARS TO COLLEGE STUDENTS. DEDICATE THE BMW GOLF TOURNEMENT TO PAYNE STEWART EVERYONE WEARS KNICKERS. STOP THE SALES PEOPLE FROM USING THE WORD SELL I DO NOT WANT TO BE SOLD ANYTHING WHAT I WANT IS TO OWN THINGS , WOULD YOU LIKE TO OWN THE RED ONE OR THE WHITE ONE. LARRY KAVALL 1 805 458 1149

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