Extreme Road Warrior Part II: The First BMW Welt Delivery

By Jonathan Spira on 1 November 2007
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The challenge: fly 6000 kilometers, pick up two cars, drive almost 4000 kilometers, stay at seven different hotels, attend two all-day events, nine meetings, and five dinner meetings, and fly back.

Brugge, Belgium

Brugge, Belgium

The beginning of article comes to you from Brugge, Belgium, at least that’s where I think I am.

On October 15, I found myself on Lufthansa Flight 411 to Munich, arriving in time for the October 17 opening of the new BMW Welt (see BMW’s Brave New World), BMW’s new €500 million “experience and delivery center.”  Just a year ago, in these pages, I wrote about the European Delivery programs that automakers offer their U.S. customers, allowing them to pick up and drive an automobile in its native habitat.  As a BMW European Delivery habitué, I had been invited by BMW to be the first customer to collect a car when deliveries start a week after opening.

The BMW Welt's first customer delivery goes to the author

The BMW Welt's first customer delivery goes to the author

European Delivery is a process I had been through many times before. To some extent, it had become almost routine.  Fly to Munich, get picked up by Rolf Raffelsieper (a retired BMW employee who runs a VIP pick-up service for European Delivery customers) and driven to the European Delivery Center in Freimann, pick up the car, go to the hotel, drive somewhere.  This trip, with delivery at the BMW Welt, would be different.

Of course, like most of my trips, this one mixed business and pleasure.  It was just much, much longer.  Following the BMW Welt opening, I had two days of business meetings in Munich.  For the weekend, however, I went to Vienna (BMW had loaned me a 535d) to see friends.  A business meeting scheduled for Monday morning was cancelled, giving me a bit of time to go shopping before leaving Vienna.

By 4 p.m. on Monday, I was back in Munich and checking my e-mail, including one from BMW.  I was expected to be at the BMW Welt at 07.30 “at the latest.”

Reception area in the BMW Welt's Premium Lounge, reserved for those collecting new BMWs only

Reception area in the BMW Welt's Premium Lounge, reserved for those collecting new BMWs only

On Tuesday, October 23rd, in the early morning hours, I found myself once again being driven by Rolf to pick up a car, but for the first time, we were heading to the BMW Welt. Unlike the sunny opening day the prior week, it was drizzling. As we approached, I found the Welt’s cloudscape-like appearance even more captivating in the mist.

Only a few BMW Welt employees were on hand when I arrived.  When I told the receptionist that I was there to collect a new car, she informed me that I was the first customer to arrive.

The Premiere Delivery Area at the BMW Welt

The Premiere Delivery Area at the BMW Welt

Another Welt employee escorted me to the elevator that zipped us to the Premium Lounge, an area reserved for customers taking delivery.  At the lounge’s reception desk, I was introduced to Thomas Huber, who would complete the formalities with me.  As we finished the paperwork, Michael Rösner, director of customer service at the Welt, stopped by to welcome me and see how things were proceeding.  Other customers were also arriving by then.

Inside the Premium Lounge, waiters and waitresses were putting out croissants, Danish pastry, juices, and preparing Cappuccino for guests.  I was ready to settle in but was told to be at station B1 by 8.10 to begin the delivery experience.  Before I could get to the station, I was greeted by Rudolf Wiedermann, the Welt’s director, as well as Keri-Lynne Shaw, Director of European Delivery at BMW NA and Simone Zaccardi, European Delivery manager at BMW NA.

THE EXPERIENCE

With the BMW Welt, BMW has without question raised the bar in delivering new cars.  As instructed, I waited by the airport-like information kiosk and Stephanie Duderstadt, my delivery specialist, came to introduce herself and start the process.

In the simulator cabin, before delivery

In the simulator cabin, before delivery

BMW uses specially developed and highly advanced multi-media technology to provide each new car owner with an individualized explanation and overview of the vehicle.  This is done in two parts.  The first, an introduction to the model and BMW design, is done at a multimedia station, a table-sized touchscreen display.  Frau Duderstadt covered features in the 5er Series, as well as design, performance, security, service, and driving dynamics.

I was then ushered into one of several simulator cabins, each outfitted with a steering wheel, brake, and gas pedal.  The armrest even had a pop-out iDrive controller.  Here I was asked to perform various accident avoidance maneuvers, such as braking with and without ABS (this felt very realistic by the way and I only crashed a few times), given an opportunity to drive with and without Adaptive Headlights to see how the light steers in the car’s direction, and given further details about the car.

Having concluded this glimpse into the future of automotive delivery, I was escorted by lift to the top floor of the Welt so I could descend down what the staff calls the “Hollywood” staircase to the Premiere delivery area.  At that point, my 550i was the only car there, sitting on a turntable.  As we walked down, Frau Duderstadt pressed a button in her PDA-like device (that she always carried) which set the turntable (there are 30 of these) in motion, with a spotlight focused on the shining car.  We continued down the three flights of stairs, stopping to admire the view of the Welt’s interior as well as of the BMW Vierzylinder headquarters and BMW Museum buildings through the Welt’s glass walls.

New cars are stored deep in the cellar and are retrieved by machine.

New cars are stored deep in the cellar and are retrieved by machine.

Frau Duderstadt then turned over the keys (each owner also receives a brushed stainless keychain in the shape of the Welt with the owner’s initials) and reviewed individual details about my car and its options, a 2008 550i in Carbonschwarz (carbon black) metallic, an exclusive color only available on the 550i with sport package, which includes an aerodynamic package, sport suspension, Active Roll Stabilization, 19” Style 172M double-spoke wheels, and 20-way multi-contour (“Comfort”) seats.  Other options include Comfort Access, Heads-up Display, Lane Departure Warning, navigation, HD radio, Logic7 sound system, rear and side shades. An anthracite headliner and black leather interior with dark poplar wood complete the look.

The car looked incredible.  At this point I could have driven off but first I wanted to spend more time in the Welt.  Later, I drove it along the path inside the Premiere area and had an opportunity to see the Welt from the driver’s seat, a unique perspective and a good way to begin to enjoy the Freude am Fahren that the Welt imbues.

The port of Bremerhaven.

The port of Bremerhaven.

Over the next seven days, I covered over 2500 kilometers, visiting eight cities (Munich, Hamburg, Flensburg, Kollund, Brugge, Düsseldorf, Bremen, and Bremerhaven) in four countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands).

The last day was drop-off day, the final step in every European Delivery trip.  You hand over your brand new BMW to E.H. Harms, BMW’s shipping agent that will book its passage across the Atlantic.  This time I went to Bremerhaven, the actual port, instead of an inland drop-off location.  I was able to see new BMWs being loaded into a ship and see the vast warehouses of BMWs, some being imported, most slated for export.  A short while later, I was on a plane, first heading to Frankfurt and then continuing to New York.  The Carbonschwarz metallic 550i would begin its own voyage a few days hence.

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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