BMW’s next 100 years: 1 failed, 99 more to go

In 2016 BMW celebrated their 100th birthday. Instead of reminiscing about the good old times, they made a clear statement about what their focus is: All birthday activities took place under the brilliant motto “The next 100 years” which was generously accompanied by topics like “vision”, “future” and “innovation”. A great way to celebrate a century-long legacy, in my opinion.

Meanwhile it’s 2017 and I just had to drive 60 kilometres to visit the BMW dealership to have GPS maps updated. The salesman told me that this kind of update – which would generously be free of charge for me – usually comes with a pricetag of around 300 Euros.

300 Euros – for maps of Europe that have to be installed on-site. In the year 2017. Twelve years after the launch of Google Maps.

To make customers feel better about this significant purchase, the map update actually comes in the physical form of a USB stick, resting in a nice little box:


The real kicker is that I don’t need this USB stick. The update was installed by the dealership; the box was lying on the passenger seat when I picked the car up again. It is completely useless to me and will probably end up as waste that could have been easily avoided.

Again, it’s 2017 – how is a map update not done over-the-air without any mentioning of it whatsoever? Keeping clients happy is not “going the extra mile” after all – it’s a basic requirement to stay in business:

“A customer’s first car is sold by a salesman – every car after that is sold through service.” -a former boss of mine

The car I drive is a 2010 model and I know that later models can receive over-the-air updates – but why not update my “old” car’s GPS system once to make it fit for the same service in the future? I’m sure that tech-savvy car people can give good technical reasons for why that’s not being done, but I’m not so sure there is a good strategic reason to be named:
Already I find it irritating that eventually I will have to make the same trip to the dealership if I want to continue using up-to-date “Original BMW” maps in the future – again and again, for as long as I drive the car. If they decide to charge me for this inconvenience next time, I will probably get a smartphone holder for 10 Euros instead and use the free, always up-to-date Google Maps navigation.

Speaking of smartphones: In the same innovative BMW universe, I was looking to acquire a snap-in adapter for my phone that would allow it to use the car’s built-in antenna for better reception. The official site of BMW Germany tells me that prices for Samsung adapters start at 139 Euros. Again, the price tag alone is a clear demonstration that BMW doesn’t know how to deliver value at a customer-friendly price. But taking the absurdity one step further, the site tells me that I need to:

  1. fill out a form to
  2. submit an RFP (request for proposal) to
  3. receive an actual offer to
  4. buy an adapter.

A 4-step hurdle race including an RFP – for a smartphone adapter. In the year 2017. 22 years after the launch of Amazon.

I’m not joking; you can see for yourself – but be ready for the perfect punchline: This site, the specific BMW page for purchasing a smartphone adapter is not mobile-friendly – and the RFP form doesn’t work on my smartphone …

Both examples demonstrate a clear misunderstanding about how younger generations make purchase decisions:

  • We don’t want to buy bulky physical objects; we care about services – such as reliable navigation and mobile reception.
  • We don’t want to choose among limited options curated for and forced upon us – we want you to actually solve our problems.
  • We don’t want to browse long lists of compatibility requirements and jump through hoops, we want you to match our needs with a custom-made offer.
  • We may watch CGI videos about a concept car and listen to what you might offer an an unspecified point in the future if we have nothing better to do – but ultimately we want to experience innovation in the here and now.

So if anyone affiliated with BMW happens to read this: I like your brand, your cars are really fun to drive and I’m still a little more change-averse than the generation that’s following in my footsteps – so please help me stay loyal!

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