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BMW Group Australia has opened one of the nation’s most expensive renovations, spending about $65 million on its factory-owned showroom in Sydney’s premier inner-city harbourside suburb of Rushcutters Bay.

In an era where car dealerships are looking at efficiencies in size as near-city land values explode, BMW believes the move is in line with giving customers the best service possible.

BMW Group Australia chief executive Vikram Pawah told GoAutoNews Premium that ongoing growth in sales and product range led to the redevelopment.

Vikram Pawah

“In 1994, the original BMW Sydney dealership underwent significant changes to accommodate the BMW brand,” he said.

“Since then, the business has expanded across all areas – the BMW and Mini products and service portfolio has grown substantially, sales have increased and the demand for service and parts has increased considerably.

“It’s not only a showroom that we have redeveloped. It is the destination for our customers and for brand aficionados with multiple customer touchpoints that define the BMW and Mini brands.”

The new dealership, which started its planning process five years ago and then resulted in a build time of two years, coincides with BMW Group Australia’s 40th anniversary.

“It was timed perfectly to coincide with the launch of a new model line-up that includes the all-new X7, 3 Series, 7 Series, 8 Series and Z4,” Mr Pawah said.

“In addition, BMW is celebrating 40 years of business operation in Australia.”

BMW’s move to create a showcase of its products and services comes at a time when its arch-rival, Mercedes-Benz, is this month opening the biggest Mercedes dealership in the southern hemisphere.

LSH Auto, the world’s biggest Mercedes-Benz retailer, has built the showroom and retail complex for $100 million in Brisbane’s riverside Breakfast Creek precinct.

LSH Auto Australia managing director John Good said the company saw Breakfast Creek as a statement about its confidence in the future of Australia – and in particular, Brisbane – and a reflection of its long-term investment strategy.

“Obviously, this facility shows that we believe that the Brisbane premium automotive and luxury lifestyle market offers opportunity,” he said.

“It’s also a clear embodiment of our brand promise of: ‘You matter. Always.’

“It’s what drives us to provide the very best customer experience possible and this new luxury lifestyle precinct will raise that standard even further.”

Mr Pawah said that in BMW’s case “it is the start of many new developments that will drive BMW Group’s focus on stronger customer centricity – putting customers at the centre in all that we do”.

Asked if the new showroom is a statement that the trend to online vehicle purchasing is not where BMW plans to go in the future, Mr Pawah said that convenience and quick and easy purchasing ways are a consideration.

“However, when purchasing a luxury product, customers still expect a heightened level of service and emotional brand experience,” he said.

“Our new BMW Sydney and Mini Garage Sydney will be the benchmark for BMW and Mini in delivering exceptional customer experience from first purchase and throughout the customer’s journey with the BMW and Mini brands.

“To give you some examples, we have product ‘geniuses’ who are specially trained to demonstrate and help assist customers become familiar with all aspects of their BMW or Mini – before, during and after their purchase.

“We have increased our service bays and renewed our 90-minute service option and also included a beautiful cafe where our customers can relax, work or meet a friend while their car is being serviced. The café is also open to the public so anyone is welcome.

“Both brands offer very distinctive personalities and this is portrayed in the architecture and decor of both showrooms.

“We have created distinctive environments for BMW and Mini, and within each there are dedicated areas to promote our top-of-the-range models – 7 Series, 8 Series and new X7 as well as our BMW i sub-brand and our BMW M high-performance sports brand.

“We also have an area for our branded lifestyle merchandise – and for those looking for a pre-used car, there’s a dedicated floor with this offering.

“On the Mini side, it is excitement all the way through the brand experience with the first-ever Mini Electric showroom space in Australia which will be home to the Countryman (plug-in) hybrid that launches next month.”

The renovation was undertaken by SJB Architects, a firm that has more than 40 years of experience in the building environment and one that Mr Pawah said “produced intelligent concepts that engage, activate and serve those who use them”.

The opening of the premises was attended by BMW Group senior vice-president for Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, Hendrik von Kuenheim.

Mr von Kuenheim said BMW Group globally sold 2.5 million vehicles last year, with 23,000 sold in Australia which was “an impressive development from selling around 1600 cars 40 years ago”.

“Sydney and Melbourne account for 48 per cent of BMW’s vehicle sales in Australia, with the X Series of SUVs accounting for almost 60 per cent of BMW’s business,” he said.

“Australia also has the second-highest share of total sales delivered by the high-performance M sub-brand amongst our global markets.

“Australia is punching above its weight and is an important contributor to the company’s global success which last year saw a BMW, Mini or Rolls-Royce car sold every 13 seconds.”

By Neil Dowling