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Have you been invited to the BMW Pavilion?



TO launch a novel car, BMW has done a novel thing. The luxury car maker opened the doors to the BMW Pavilion yesterday, a pop-up store at Suntec Plaza that it said would "bring customers on a journey of exclusivity and sophistication".

Over a fortnight, the BMW Pavilion will offer some 1,000 expected visitors the chance to test drive six of its models. Among them is the 6 Series Gran Turismo, a first for the brand.

The new machine mixes attributes from a number of car types. With the same wheelbase as a 7 Series, it has the spacious cabin of a limousine. Its fastback shape gives it a huge luggage compartment but a sporty silhouette. The driver's seat is 60 mm higher than that of a 5 Series yet lower than that of a sport utility vehicle, so you neither slump nor climb into it.

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Prices start at S$311,800 including Certificate Of Entitlement (COE) for the 258 hp 630i Gran Turismo M Sport. The faster 640i Gran Turismo M Sport, which has 340 hp, costs S$389,800 with COE.

BMW Asia did not release pricing for a third version - 630i Gran Turismo Luxury - but it'll be the least expensive of the lot.

Members of the public can pop in on Nov 12 or 19, but entry on other days is by invitation only. That is largely because the venue is hosting closed-door sessions for guests to interact with marketing staff from other brands, among them Montblanc, a pen maker; Macallan, a Scottish whisky producer; and Sincere Fine Watches, a watch retailer.

These "highly curated" sessions will involve no more than 25 guests each, says Brenda Pek, the director of marketing at BMW Asia. The aim, she says, is for BMW and each partner brand to connect with customers in a different environment from the showroom.

"The whole idea is not to sell a car, it's to build a connection. In this segment, it's all about understanding who we are and understanding who (the customers) are," she says. "It's not transactional."

It might seem counterintuitive to invite only a small number of people to a pop-up venue and not try to sell them anything, but such an approach can work for the high-end, says retail specialist Chris Chong, the chief executive of Orchard Turn Developments, which operates the Ion Orchard mall.

"Luxury is an attitude. If you look at the origin of luxury, it's really about a small group of customers," he says. "It's not about being accessible to everybody."