BMW visitor centre arouses curiosity of thousands

22nd October 2007, Comments 0 comments

22 October 2007, Munich (AFP) - A chic glass building, all curvy lines, the new BMW exhibition centre opened its doors over the weekend to thousands of curious visitors wanting to take in the German carmaker's ultimate marketing experience.

22 October 2007

Munich (AFP) - A chic glass building, all curvy lines, the new BMW exhibition centre opened its doors over the weekend to thousands of curious visitors wanting to take in the German carmaker's ultimate marketing experience.

More than 40,000 visitors came to admire the latest models, learn about new technologies or simply stroll around the 15,000 square-metre (161,400 square-foot) "BMW Welt" (World), built on the site of the carmaker's original factory founded in 1916.

The building was designed by the Austrian architect Wolf D. Prix, who dreamt of creating a "combination between a theater and a marketplace," and compares his work with the Acropolis in Athens.

"The building is really impressive, modern and futuristic" said Thomas Boehnke, 35, fascinated by the twin glass cones in the entrance hall and the undulating, cloud-like roof.

"The architecture symbolises the values of BMW -- elegance, sportiness, agility" pronounced one salesman. "And of Bavaria" interjected his wife.

The most curious visitors were of course the Bavarians themselves -- neighbours of the building site for the past for years.

"It's a social event that's been on my calendar for months" said Frieda Haugg, a 60-something, as she toured the building. "The story of Munich and the story of BMW is one and the same."

Visitors of every age and social class came, proving that the German obsession with the motor car shows no sign of fading.

"It is very beautiful, like they always are, but it's too expensive for my pocket money" smiled Klaus Bierling, a lorry (US: truck) driver, as he admired one of the cars on display.

"Gawking at beautiful motor cars and being obsessed by their technology has always been a male pastime" explained Uwe Morcinietz, 27, as he made his way to the subterranean levels to see where the finished cars are made ready for delivery.

Some visitors were of course hardcore BMW fans, such as Manfred Hartman, a 60-something from Munich, and a BMW driver for more than 20 years. He was there to buy an all-terrain X5, handy for a "round of golf."

"I need a big boot. I could either buy an Audi but the back is too big, a Porsche Cayenne, but it is too expensive, or a Mercedes, but on principle I refuse to. They used to say that Mercedes were for pork butchers, workers or fat people! BMWs are a touch more sporty."

From Tuesday, people who have ordered a BMW will, for an extra 475 euros (680 dollars), be able to pick it up at BMW Welt. The company hopes that some 45,000 of the 800,000 to one million visitors expected each year will plump for experience of driving their new car home from the factory.

The facility, which cost the company 250 million euros (357 million dollars) -- or a total of 500 million euros including the renovation of existing buildings including a museum which will open in 2008 -- will allow the company "to sell more cars, of course, but also to reinforce the social cache" of the brand, said a BMW spokesman.

BMW is far from the first to build an exhibition centre for its cars. For many years Audi and Mercedes, and before that Volkswagen, the main competitors to BMW, have had temples for their devotees to worship their brand. Porsche is about to do the same.

"In Germany, in our sector of the market, we are making more cars than we can sell" admits Helmut Poschl, head of communications at BMW.

In the context of that over-capacity, marketing has become even more important for manufacturers for top-end brands hoping to lure new customers.

AFP

Subject: German news

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