The European delivery program for new car purchases is not a new concept; it dates to the 1950s when armed forces personnel at the tail end of overseas assignments shipped home all manner of German, Italian, French and Swedish hardware.
The selling proposition goes (and went) like this: Customers order a car through their dealership at home, take delivery in Europe, go on a continental driving vacation, then arrange to have the car shipped back home. Along the way, they save money on renting a car in Europe and, possibly, also secure a discount on the purchase price of the car from the dealer at home. It's a sweet deal for those interested in experiencing a taste of la dolce vita.
But the marketing gurus at BMW Group Canada have given this old concept a compelling new twist – they offer luxury driving vacation packages for customers, something they cheekily call "the Ultimate Delivery Experience."
The program began last year to coincide with the introduction of the then-new BMW M6 Gran Coupe. Seven couples from across Canada signed up for the nascent program and enjoyed a multiday adventure that began and ended in Munich, where BMW headquarters and the splashy BMW Welt are located.
This year, the program was extended to seven days and expanded to 15 couples. But these weren't just any customers – they were among the first in Canada to order a hotly anticipated pair of BMWs, the all-new, fifth-generation M3 sedan and its coupe counterpart, the first-ever M4.
"We promoted the event through our dealer network and offered it to the first customers in Canada to preorder a new M3 or M4," said Matthew Wilson, manager product planning at BMW Group Canada. "Customers could sign up right after the cars premiered at this year's Montreal International Auto Show in January – all 15 spots were gone within two hours."
Perusal of the event agenda revealed why interest in the Ultimate Delivery Experience was so high. The program included a tour of the Munich factory where the M3 and M4 are built, as well as a track driving session at the BMW Driving Experience centre in Maisach, Germany. And this was just the first day's activities.
The highlight of the second day was, without a doubt, the customers in the BMW Welt lounge waiting for the moment when they would take possession of their cars. A section of the seating area was reserved for the Canadians and, in honour of the group's presence, all the napkins were either red or white; thoughtful touches such as this characterized the entire program.
The lounge featured a viewing balcony overlooking a presentation area on the floor below; here, customers took photos as their cars were wheeled into view. It's a cliché to be sure, but these moments were awash in emotion and heady with expectation.
There was also something exceedingly refreshing about the customers themselves: performance car enthusiasts, every last one. One gentleman was taking part in his fourth European delivery with BMW. Another had ordered an M3 and an M4 after participating in the M6 Gran Coupe event last year; he brought his wife and three children along for the ride. Others were new to the delivery program; this experience being the end result of years of planning and saving.
There was also a quality to the event that wouldn't have existed outside of a group dynamic. Customers bonded quickly over shared interests – fast cars being the cornerstone – and shared experiences. As they took delivery of their cars, they complimented each other on respective choices, hugged and shook hands. Variations of, "Ah, I wish I'd chosen that colour!" and "Ah, I wish I'd chosen those wheels!" echoed around the Welt.
The group was staged to depart from BMW Welt on the first leg of their shared driving vacation – a quick sprint from Munich to Salzburg, Austria – but there were more memories to collect first.
Dr. Friedrich Nitschke, president of the BMW M GmbH, joined the group for lunch. Factory DTM race driver Bruno Spengler, a Canadian, dropped by to sign autographs and pose for photos. And local television crews interviewed the Canadians who had created such a stir in their brief time in the Bavarian capital. From start to finish, they were treated like superstars.
So what's the end goal behind the Ultimate Delivery Experience?
"We have no trouble selling M cars in Canada, particularly new cars like the M3 and M4," said Kevin Marcotte, director of marketing for BMW Group Canada. "But we want to give our customers the chance to really experience their cars, on roads that were meant for driving, and to give them a special time along the way."
Special, indeed. The road trip to Salzburg was just the first of four driving days that took the group southwest through the Tyrolean Alps to the southern shore of Lake Como before finally concluding in Florence, Italy. They experienced five-star hotels, gourmet meals and arguably the greatest gift of all – more than 1,000 kilometres behind the wheel of one of the best cars in the world.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker
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