BMW to require product explainers in its dealerships image

BMW plans to require its dealers to hire young, tech-savvy employees that will answer questions about the vehicles displayed.

Inspired by Apple retail stores, the “BMW Genius Everywhere” program will be launched across Europe after a trial at several large dealership groups in the UK last year. A pilot program in the U.S. will start later this year in a few stores and will expand nationwide by early 2014.

The program involves specially-trained employees – many of whom are college students – that will assist buyers with iPads in hand. They will inform shoppers about vehicles and features, but will not sell cars.

BMW’s initiative is similar to the Genius Bar program in every Apple outlet that consists of product explainers and troubleshooters who answer questions and give free technical support. Cadillac and Lexus have similar programs in their U.S. dealerships.

According to Peter Miles, BMW of North America’s vice president of operations, the carmaker wants a “critical mass” of Geniuses in time for the launch of the i3 electric car that will come to the U.S. in early 2014.

“The salesman has a complicated job. He has to understand product, he has to be trained and he has to understand financial services. And honestly, it has probably gotten a little too broad,” Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing, was quoted as saying by Automotive News.

In the UK, dealers have found that buyers who use a Genius usually equip their vehicles better, Robertson added.