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BMW Opens Its First i Store, Shows Updated i3 Concept

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On: Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 9:20AM | By: Chris Weiss

BMW Opens Its First i Store, Shows Updated i3 Concept

Because electric vehicles have one foot (or set of wheels) in the technology sector and the other in the automotive sector, electric automakers like Tesla (which actually hired a former Apple retail exec) have taken inspiration from tech companies (particularly Apple) in redefining the consumer experience. Instead of the stereotypical big car lot on the side of the highway, Tesla and co. use small, interactive, slickly designed urban showrooms to highlight their cars. The latest example is BMW's new i Store, which opened this month on Park Lane in London.

BMW says that its network of i Stores will be part of a restructured sales strategy. The multi-channel approach, which will be available in selected markets (read: wealthy cities), will include a mobile sales team, a Customer Interaction Centre (CIC) and an Internet sales hub. Customers can utilize one of the channels or switch between them at any point in the process.

The new stores - or 'Customer Interaction Centers' if you want to be dramatic about it - won't replace traditional dealerships, but will serve in conjunction to provide EV consumers a new type of experience. Instead of working with dealers - not something that many consumers look forward to - i Store customers will work directly with BMW AG on their purchases, and BMW says it provide a more personal service. We'll take that to mean you won't hear classics like "What'll it take to get you in this i3 today?" or "I've got another buyer coming in later to look at this baby, and it's the last one left in the county."

The mobile sales team will serve to provide a one-on-one consultancy away from the showroom, and the Internet element will let customers get information and purchase products at "any time, any location."

Since BMW has a shiny, new retail store to showcase electric vehicles, but no actual electric vehicle models in production, it introduced an updated i3 concept at the London location. The concept has the same mechanical underpinnings and look of the last i3 we saw, but it gets a new interior. The highlight of the interior is in trendy sustainable materials like eucalyptus wood and leather tanned with olive-leaf oil. The lack of a central tunnel opens the i3's cabin, creating a feeling of spaciousness and comfort rare in a small car.

I Store Park Lane will also have an i8 concept on display. Both models will debut at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show. The i3 will hit the market next year, with the i8 following in 2014.

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moneytalks | 10:39AM (Wed, Jun 27, 2012)

But who can afford this?

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