Going to a BMW dealership in Europe is a much different experience than in the United States. European dealerships have a few different models of each series to test drive, then the customer typically orders their BMW exactly the way they want. I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a BMW dealer in downtown Berlin and was blown away by how few cars they had to look at versus a typical U.S. dealer. In the US we typically like to test drive one and then drive it off their lot full of lots of new cars that same day. So what should you expect if you order one in the United States?

Step 1:  Choose which BMW to order

BMWUSA.com has a nice build-your-own feature where you can spec it the way you want on your future new BMW. The next step can be as simple as calling a dealer and taking care of it over the phone. You’re also get a unique alphanumeric build code, such as Build Code EAQOOM9Q for example.

In my case, I went to my home town dealer, Baron BMW to be able to see and drive what I was interested in. To help decide on our spec for sure our salesman let us take a test drive X3 home overnight. It was perfectly optioned. I loved everything about it except the fact it didn’t have heated rear seats.

That’s ok, I thought because this has everything else. The next morning the salesman contacts me to let us know someone else just bought our test drive X3 and we needed to bring it back soonish. No problem, I thought. We are not in a hurry, so I asked about ordering the same thing but this time with heated rear seats.

Step 2:  Place your BMW order

We worked out the details over the phone and decided to go ahead and order a 2021 BMW X3 plug-in hybrid. This was August 18th mid-day. Our order was entered into BMW’s system and the car was put into production the week of August 31st and finished up on September 3rd. So just over 2 weeks to get built and quality checked.

Next up was shipping. Sadly things slowed down quite a bit here and tit took until Sept 11th late in the evening to arrive at the dealership. Much of the shipping I am told was how far it has to travel from the Spartanburg Plant and how many stops the truck has to make along the way. Obviously expect a shorter shipping time for the East Coast versus LA for example.

Step 3:  Your new BMW arrives at the Dealer

Once at the dealer, a new BMW does require some work to get it out of shipping mode and carefully remove the wrap that protects the paint. Shipping mode limits the speed of the car so it cannot be hot-rodded or anything nefarious.

I listed the dates below of our experience. I was amazed at how fast it got built but somewhat disappointed how slow the shipping went. There was a 3-day holiday however in shipping time, so I can’t really blame them. Further, when my BMW hit the dealer it was late on a Friday night and it had to sit the weekend to get ready for delivery.

Step 4: Delivery and lots of paperwork

We have ordered new BMW i3s  before and the process is similar. But the shipping is much longer because it has to get on to a ship, go across the Atlantic, hit a U.S. port then get checked by BMW and then shipped to the dealership. BMW uses the port of Bremerhaven for BMW i cars produced at Leipzig, Germany to catch a boat to the United States. We have had one BMW i3 that got to the port there and immediately got on a boat, and our second BMW i3s that sat for days waiting on its ship.

Though we are in strange times with pandemic and BMW factories are gradually tooling back up, I would say expect about a month to order a new BMW for the U.S. if it is made at Spartanburg to about 2 months if it is made in Europe.

Sadly BMW recently chose to kill off European delivery for U.S. customers, though you can still do factory delivery in the United States at Spartanburg Plant. I chose not to do Spartanburg delivery currently because the plant tours are currently closed for COVID precautions.

Lastly, I’d point out a useful portal: “My BMW” within the BMWUSA’s site once you login. This will allow you to track your car through the various stages of being ordered, getting assigned a BUILD code, its VIN and know where it is on the assembly line.

BMW use to allow video tracking of your car but that only lasted one year early on in the last generation of BMW X3s. All in all, I found ordering a BMW a very painless process and much faster than I would have thought.