'BMW on Demand' Coming to New York

BMW anticipates the road to ownership will be paved through short-term car rentals.

The automaker is inviting customers in select markets in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to rent its 328i sedan by the hour, day or week, starting on Aug. 13, through a pilot program called BMW on Demand.

At the outset, 12 dealerships in the New York area will participate, and 100 of the 328i sedans, equipped with a technology package that includes a navigation system, will be rotated based on demand, according to Ed Robinson, president of BMW Financial Services, which oversees the program.

Other BMW models may be added to the mix. Customers must register first, after which they would be directed to Bmwondemandusa.com once the site goes live. Unlike other car-sharing programs, there is no membership fee. Cars are picked up and dropped off at dealerships.

BMW, which introduced BMW on Demand first in its home market of Munich two years ago, is looking for a certain clientele of customers who are willing to pay a premium for a luxury car, Mr. Robinson said, because they know they do not have to pay for insurance, maintenance, gas or parking.

“They want the car when they want it,” Mr. Robinson said. “They want a car they can enjoy and that fits their lifestyle.”

The hourly rate is $35 and, if the car is returned by 6 p.m., the daily total is $140, he said. The overnight rate is $210.

The weekend deal allows a Friday afternoon pickup and 9 a.m. Monday drop-off for $350, he said.

Full insurance coverage is included in the rental price, Mr. Robinson said, so customers are covered for liability and bodily injury. A customer involved in an accident would have to pay a $750 deductible for the vehicle, he added.

Of course, New York-area consumers who lust after luxury-brand cars by the hour can rent models like the BMW 328xi and Audi A3 from car-sharing services like Hertz on Demand or Zipcar.com. Mr. Robinson contends, however, that his company is providing more of a luxury experience, with representatives ready to hand over the keys and acquaint renters with their cars.

The BMW test runs for 90 to 120 days, Mr. Robinson said, and the company expects to evaluate whether it will continue and be introduced in other cities.

Meanwhile, over the longer term, Mr. Robinson views the program as a way to provide a more fulfilling test drive experience for potential buyers, who can use the car when and how they want.

“The business model to this is that when you as a customer, who doesn’t have a car today, goes out into the market and decides to purchase a car,” he said, “you are going to be predisposed to BMW.”


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