After a two-year pilot program, BMW's Executive Preference Program (EPP) officially launched in August 2010.

BMW is seeing positive reactions to the new program. "We've been met with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of comments about BMW recognizing the potential of the corporate executive fleet market," said Drew McClelland, corporate sales manager for BMW of North America. "The program has been met with a lot of enthusiasm in many of the conversations I've had with fleets."

EPP allows eligible fleet drivers to take advantage of BMW products and, according to McClelland, its vehicles don't have to be exclusive to higher-level executives. "The program is specifically designed for those who may be in the arena of an executive driver, but we also focus on those companies that provide sales leaders awards. If you've been a top sales leader for your corporation, maybe you have the opportunity to upgrade to a BMW product," he said.

In addition, BMW plans to add the MINI  brand of products, which it owns, to the program by late spring 2011.

Benefits of EPP

Benefits of EPP include BMW Ultimate Service, which is no-cost BMW maintenance for four years/50,000 miles and roadside assistance for four years/unlimited miles.

"The zero-cost maintenance for four years/50,000 miles certainly helps contribute to a lower overall total cost of ownership for a BMW product," McClelland said. It includes all preventive maintenance and is estimated to save about $1,200 within the program's time frame in comparison to a non-OEM-provided maintenance program. Any BMW dealer can perform service on the vehicles.

The new-vehicle limited warranty is for four years/50,000 miles.

The BMW Assist Safety Program provides drivers with roadside assistance or crash notification. The optional Convenience Program is similar to a ­"concierge-type service" that verbally assists in identifying locations or fulfilling other requests to supplement the onboard navigation system.

For EPP pricing, BMW utilizes a below dealer invoice/cost structure, less EPP incentives. This triple-net pricing is especially attractive to leasing customers because it reduces the vehicle's capitalized cost, McClelland said.

BMW Financial Services finance rates are available to approved corporate customers, but EPP vehicles do not qualify for leasing through Financial Services. Leases must be funded through a third-party funding source.

Other EPP benefits are preferential rates for Performance Driving School courses and BMW factory tours at the manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, S.C., VIP treatment during service visits, complimentary loaner vehicle, vehicles returned washed and vacuumed, and preferential rates on BMW-sponsored events. McClelland said some customers have already taken advantage of the Performance Driving School courses in Greer, S.C. EPP drivers who choose to take delivery of their new vehicle at the factory are invited to participate in a half-day driving course held in conjunction with a factory tour.

Fleet Eligibility

EPP is a North American program, with the exception of Mexico. McClelland supports North American sales, while Allison ­Scarangella, national fleet manager at BMW Canada, supports sales in Canada. For fleets with vehicles in both countries, the fleet manager would work with one sales manager, usually located in the country of the company headquarters. A similar corporate sales program has been in effect in mainland Europe, the UK, and Australia for several years, ­McClelland added.

BMW assigns qualified fleets ­a company-­specific EPAN (executive preference account number). To be eligible, one of the criteria is having "five or more executive vehicles in the fleet that are currently sponsored by a company car program," McClelland said.

One of the advantages of BMW's EPP is that it's not only open to companies but also to employees on reimbursement or car allowance programs.

"In the past five years, many companies have moved their executive fleets to provide either an official reimbursement program or, possibly, they're including a vehicle in an overall compensation package for that executive," McClelland said.  "We want to be able to provide that executive with access to the BMW program just as if he or she was assigned a ­company car."

However, to be eligible, the company must be enrolled in EPP, and the vehicle must be ordered using the company's EPAN, as BMW does not allow individuals to enroll.

EPP Dealers Trained in Fleet

Out of the 300-plus BMW dealers in the U.S., approximately 210 have voluntarily enrolled in EPP.

EPP client advisors at authorized dealerships receive a two-hour online training course that explains fleet sales and how the corporate program works. In addition to the administrative training, the online course addresses the importance of productivity and time efficiency for fleet customers. "Productivity and the ability to get a vehicle in and out in a timely fashion is something that is heavily emphasized with our dealer body," McClelland said.

Client advisors communicate with BMW North America on a regular basis about program enhancements and changes. They also work directly with McClelland­ and his team to ensure they understand how to process an EPP sale.

For vehicle orders, fleet management companies (or drivers themselves) supply the EPAN and customer information form to the ordering dealer.

Depending on the vehicle purchased, vehicles may be manufactured in Spartanburg or in Europe. Shipped vehicles can be delivered within six to eight weeks, but actual order-to-delivery time depends on production sequence and which vehicle was ordered.

For more information about EPP, visit­­corpsales.