BMW has begun a major push to guarantee delivery dates to its customers.
Most cars are custom ordered in a dealer showroom, said Ernst Baumann, general manager of BMW's 3-series plant in Regensburg, Germany.
That means production does not begin until the deal is made. BMW wants to ensure that cars will be delivered when dealers say they will be.
'Our dealers don't always have the best knowledge of when a car will be ready,' said Baumann. 'Once they give a customer a delivery date, we want that promise to be fulfilled.'
In addition to better knowledge of when a car will arrive, BMW wants to reduce by 35 percent the time between a signed purchase order and when the car comes off the assembly line.
In Europe, that translates to putting a customer behind the wheel 10 days after the order. It will be longer elsewhere, where delivery by ship is involved. Baumann described the system at the University of Michigan automotive seminar in Traverse City, Michigan, in August.
The new system will spread to all BMW's assembly plants worldwide over several years.
BMW's goal is not new, but it has taken on new urgency with the company's plans for a new computer information system.
The system will link plants to dealers to suppliers around the globe.
When a car is ordered, BMW's key suppliers will be notified instantly that parts are needed. They will be asked to deliver those parts in just-in-time sequence to a plant.
Baumann said that process will be stepped up with the new system.
'We would like all high-value parts, such as seats, powertrain parts, gear boxes and electrical components, to arrive in sequence at a plant,' Baumann said. 'That situation would help speed up delivery.'
Once suppliers are notified, dealers will be handed an exact date when they can expect the freshly assembled vehicle.