By MARY BEVANS GILLETT Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — BMW hit the road literally and figuratively when it opened its new facility in late June.
The new BMW dealership is a member of the Fox Motors family and is located at 2801 N. U.S. 31 South of Traverse City.
It was previously located in the Fox Grand Traverse group of dealerships at 3464 North U.S. 31 South.
General Manager Glenn Cousineau said the new building opened its doors June 24, with a soft opening under way during much of July. Grand opening festivities are set for July 22. BMW North American president and CEO Ludwig Willish and DP Fox Ventures LLC president and CEO Dan DeVos will attend.
The new 18,000-square-foot building offers vehicles displayed on a 150-foot wide path of charcoal tile stretching the length of the showroom. Tall ceilings, tiled flooring, and a wall of windows are complemented by an open floor plan with streamlined designs, European furnishings and a palette of white, grey and black.
The facility is significant because it will serve as the flagship store design for all future BMW dealerships in the United States.
“This is part of BMW’s Future Retail 2016,” Cousineau said of a concept designed to increase customer contact points, increase benefits and enhance the retail experience.
“All other new BMW dealerships in the United States will look like this,” he said.
The Traverse City site also incorporates environmentally friendly features into the exterior show space. Situated close to Kids Creek, the site plans calls for a green buffer space adjacent to the creek that comprises at least one third of the property.
Construction began in November 2012 and was completed last month. Design goals were set by BMW, but all professional work was done locally, including architecture by Whiteford Associates, construction by Comstock Construction and excavation by Molon Excavating. Total cost was $4 million, including a complete demolition of the original buildings on-site, as well as a major clean-up once excavation started.
“When they were razed, we found that the three existing buildings were sitting on top of a dump,” Cousineau said. “We were faced with a choice: do we build on top or remove and replace.”
“We felt there was only one right way and that was to remove and replace,” he said. Excavators needed to go nine feet below the original grade before getting to uncompromised soil.
The new facility significantly increases BMW’s local footprint. The showroom can display up to 10 different vehicles, with ample space and support for BMW’s new electric “I” cars slated for introduction this year. Service bays more than doubled, increasing from four to 10. Staff increased from 11 to 13, with an additional five to seven hires planned within the year.
The increased size was prompted by current demand following two years of robust growth, said Cousineau, who added that sales volume increased by 40 percent in 2011-2012 and by 39 percent in 2012-2013. The company plans to increase the number of models available, expanding from 90 to 120, during the next few years. Attention is being given to affordability at the entry level, fuel efficiency and innovative technology which is impacting demand, Cousineau said.