Will You Custom-Order Your Next Car? BMW Hopes So


In the United States of America, we live in a culture of instant gratification.

When we want a pizza delivered, it better come within 30 minutes of the order. When we send a text message, we better get a reply within 30 seconds. And when we want a car, we’ll settle for whatever the dealer has on the lot for sale right now.

As much as we love online “Build Your Own” car configurators that let us pick and choose whatever options we like and build the car of our dreams, those dreams tend to go out the window once we visit a dealership.

But could that all change in the near future?

BMW hopes to overtake Lexus as the top selling luxury car brand in the U.S. by 2012. According to Autoweek, 50 percent of all BMWs sold in Germany are custom-ordered. In comparison, only 2 percent of Lexus models sold in the U.S. are custom deliveries.

BMW hopes American car buyers will flock to buying the German way, helping push the Bavarians past Lexus. As BMW readies its new X3 (which will be released early next year), it is getting dealers on board to promote built-to-order vehicles. Doing so would reduce inventories on dealer lots and reduce the number of dealer discounts required to move that excess inventory.

Of course, it also means potential BMW buyers would pay more money and need to wait while the car is assembled. I seriously question whether U.S. residents will have the necessary patience for that, even with promises from BMW that orders for the customized X3 could be filled in as little as two weeks.

If I’m on the lot, though, and see an X3 that has most of what I want, I’d be more likely to negotiate on the price and drive it home right away than pay thousands more for a custom-built one I’d have to wait to see.

I have a feeling most American car buyers would feel the same way, but I’m curious:

Would you rather take your pick from available inventory or pay more and wait for exactly the car you want?


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  1. Considering this, BMW X3 models built before this ’07 change are less attractive. The rough ride was the primary concern, while the cabin materials did not meet the premium standards set by other BMW models.
    BMW Cars

  2. This one is simple: TESTOSTERONE VS. COMMON SENSE. Both work depending on what camp you are in.

  3. @ jgoods
    Well, you can bet that going the ‘build your own’ route will cost full MSRP; and options on Bimmers add up really quick. Pretty soon the base $39K price turns into a $50K compact SUV. I’d sure rather pick off the lot and negotiate thousands off the sticker. Instant gratification and a money saver.

  4. I think “build your own” makes all kinds of sense. So how much more does it, will it, cost? What do you mean by “thousands more”?

  5. I’d rather pick from available inventory than pay extra to wait for a custom order. I don’t think BMW’s new approach will work for American buyers outside those who have piles of money to spend, but we’ll see.

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