BY SUSAN ROSE
The return of business—and the anticipated revival of corporate travel—has many operators thinking about and planning for the update of their fleets in the next year. If you had to purchase a vehicle this past spring or summer, you likely experienced a tight market with limited availability, but it’s been steadily improving for manufacturers as we head into MY 2022.
About a decade ago, German automaker BMW recognized the specific requirements of our industry and began offering tailored options packages and a beefed-up Extended Vehicle Protection Program through its Limousine and Hotel Shuttle Program, now called Limousine and Hospitality. For 2022, BMW is expanding its livery lineup with vehicles that are perfect for chauffeured transportation, including two sedans (5 and 7 Series) and its largest sports activity vehicle (X7).
“The 7 Series is our bread and butter. It is the most popular vehicle for the limousine program, specifically the 740i and the 740i xDrive. These sedans meet the needs of operators and there are generous incentives, making pricing attractive over retail,” says Key Account Manager Grace Schiller.
Schiller is the newest member of the Limousine and Hospitality Program after transitioning from the Dealer Performance Management Team this past July.
The sixth-generation 7 Series is the brand’s enduring flagship for a reason: It’s built for the pleasure of the passengers as much as the driver. The legroom in the passenger cabin is the best in the lineup at more than 44 inches (thanks to its 126.4-inch long wheelbase) and 38.9 inches of headroom. The full-size sedan also has a matching full-size trunk with 18.2 cu. ft. of cargo space, so handling the baggage needs of your executives is rarely a challenge.
“Make sure your passengers know what’s available to them during the ride—press the button, use it, that’s why it’s there. – Grace Schiller, BMW Key Account Manager
The Limousine and Hospitality Package streamlines your purchase with the most popular options available for the ultimate experience for your customers—saving operators a few bucks too. This package delivers front and rear heated seats and armrests, power rear and side sunshades, Nappa leather upholstery, and massaging rear seats. If you upgrade to the 750i xDrive, the driver will also have massage seats while passengers can enjoy the panoramic sky lounge LED roof, which creates a chill atmosphere via thousands of light elements in several colors for a spectacular starlit ceiling display unlike any other—without impacting visibility during the day. There’s really no bad choice in the Series.
BMW upped its game with its Extended Vehicle Protection Program as well, offering three industry-leading (and unheard-of) choices for livery: 7 years/100,000 miles; 7 years/150,000 miles; or 7 years/200,000 miles.
All the vehicles in the 7 Series, with the exception of the rear-wheel-drive 740i, have standard all-wheel drive. The only real major difference among the models is the roster of standard features and horsepower: choose from 6-, 8-, and 12-cylinder engines, although the 6 or 8 available in the 740i and 750i xDrive will probably be more than enough for most chauffeured services looking to balance acceleration and fuel economy.
“For me, the 5 Series is a car you will enjoy driving, while the 7 Series is a car that you want to be driven in. It’s a powerful machine, and one that is meant for the passenger and the backseat. Just that little bit of extra legroom makes a big difference,” says Schiller.
Because BMW has put so much effort into building a comfortable and memorable journey for backseat passengers, Schiller encourages operators and chauffeurs to share this with their clients.
“Make sure your passengers know what’s available to them during the ride—press the button, use it, that’s why it’s there. That’s something I’ve been trying to advise to customers,” she says.
Chauffeurs can also take advantage of BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant, a voice-activated “help center” that accesses a range of features such as climate control and media with a simple “Hey BMW” prompt. We may not have flying cars in 2021, but in a sea of distractions, AI is letting us keep our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
While the 7 Series is the pinnacle of luxury within the lineup, the 5 Series shouldn’t be overlooked. The midsize executive sedan has all of the good looks, charm, and many safety features of its larger sibling with loads of technology and passenger comforts for an affordable option that many operators might find is the sweet spot for their fleet, especially as the market for luxury sedans continues to contract.
“We’ve started seeing a lot more interest in the 5 Series. While it’s a bit smaller than the 7 Series, it meets the needs of certain operators based on their clientele and has a competitive price point,” says Schiller.
What bells and whistles the 5 Series might lack (sorry, no rear massaging or heated seats, but is an available option for the driver), it makes up for with excellent fuel economy, a comfortable ride, and a spirited driving performance. The turbocharged engines range from 4 to 8 cylinders, with the best MPGs coming from the 4-cylinder 530i and the 6-cylinder 540i (approximately 25/33 for city/highway). And there’s no mistaking that the 5 Series is a luxury vehicle: Passengers will enjoy buttery-soft leather seating and legroom and headroom on par with other sedan offerings in its class (36.5 inches and 37.5 inches, respectively).
Sedans will definitely be on the must-see list for many operators, but the standout vehicle in this group is the sport activity vehicle (SAV), the X7. If you’re wondering what the heck an SAV is, it’s basically BMW’s classification for an SUV that fuses power and sporty performance with luxury.
“The BMW approach to sports activity vehicles is pretty unique and true to our DNA. The X7 is the distillation of the very essence of the BMW experience. It truly does drive the part, look the part, feel the part,” says Schiller.
The X7 debuted in 2019 as BMW’s largest SAV and has been lauded by many of the automotive industry’s leading publications. Car and Driver wrote about the newest model: “Not that long ago, the BMW most likely to double as a personal limo was the 7 Series Sedan, but the 2022 X7 SUV is stepping into the role of rolling palace for the rich.” If there’s any vehicle that can give the 7
Series a run for its money in cornering the limousine market, it’s the X7.
“For me, the 5 Series is a car you will enjoy driving, while the 7 Series is a car that you want to be driven in. – Grace Schiller
Loaded to the hilt with features and technology galore, the top-of-the-line SAV has three rows of seating with an optional configuration of second-row Captain’s chairs. The longer rear doors make for easier passenger entry and egress, while the spacious cabin and large windows (and panoramic sunroof) create an airy environment. If the third row isn’t needed, it power-folds and expands storage up to 48.6 cu. ft. Bonus: The higher ceiling (39.9 inches, second row) is a must for taller VIPs.
The entire lineup will be displayed on the show floor at the CD/NLA Show in Dallas this month, giving attendees an opportunity to kick the tires (metaphorically speaking, of course), test and explore the various features, and compare the sedans head to head. We can’t even begin to list all of goods that these vehicles have to offer, so be sure to check out bmwusa.com for a complete rundown. Schiller and other representatives will be on hand in Texas to answer any questions about the vehicles or current incentives.
“I think having the 5 and 7 next to each other, it’s easy to visualize the difference between the two cars. They look very similar, but once you actually have an opportunity to interact with them, it will help operators to decide what’s best for their company,” says Schiller.
Beyond the gorgeous exterior and technology-packed interior, BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan complements the goal of chauffeured transportation: to deliver passengers in a safe, reliable, and comfortable vehicle that’s also pretty sweet to drive, too. With such effortless luxury, the rest is up to the chauffeur. [CD1021]