September 2, 2014

BMW i Genius could replace a car salesman – if it actually worked.

BMW is employing ‘Artificial Intelligence’ to flog the new BMW i3 and i8 EVs with a text based salesman answering potential buyers’ questions.

Photo BMW i3 and i8

Text you i3 or i8 question to BMW i Genius and get a proper salesman’s reply

The cars sales market is moving online more and more with many buyers using the interwebs for all their new car research, and a growing number actually buying cars directly from their devices.

Now it seems that BMW are looking for a new way to sell their new range of electric cars – the BMW i3 and BMW i8 – which are about to hit the road and offer car buyers the first chance to jump in to a ‘Premium’ EV.

So with a new market place potentially opening up, BMW has already appointed ‘i Geniuses’ at many of their UK dealerships to answer buyers’ question on the i3 and i8, and now they’re going a step further in a move that looks set to undermine, or even replace, BMW car salesmen (and women).

The new sales ploy is called i Genius and is an SMS text service that allows anyone interested in the i3 or i8 to text a question and get a proper answer.

Designed by London Brand Management, i Genius (which LBM actually refer to as ‘BMW i Virtual Assistant’), the system is claimed to respond with a proper conversational thread. BMW say:

Users simply text in a question relating to BMW i and the BMW i Genius system will instantly respond with a detailed and helpful answer. The adaptive system is capable of interpreting words, the context of those words and the sentiment behind each question in order to respond. Subsequent questions can be asked allowing an informative, real-time conversation.

Which sounds like a great idea, but we’re not so sure.

Photo BMW i Genius answers questions

We tried the i Genius service (just text to 84737 in the UK to try it yourself) with what we though a simple enough opening gambit:

Why should I buy an i3?

The i Genius replied with:

If all this talk about electric cars is getting your motor running, you can find out more at www.bmw.co.uk/bmwi or ask me another question.

Mmmm. But, undeterred, we ploughed on:

Wouldn’t I be better off with a 1-Series?

We thought that might be a sensible question, but i Genius wasn’t playing.

Are you ready to make a difference to the environment and the future of car travel by owning an electric car? Discover more at becomeelectric.co.k.

It was starting to feel like a conversation with a real car salesman, one who wanted to tell you what he wanted, not what you wanted to hear. So we asked what we’d ask a real salesman:

Do you actually answer questions?

The i Genius responded with:

I know everything there is to know about the new, innovative BMW i. Go on ask me a question about the i3 or the i8 Concept car and I’ll enlighten you.

Which sounded even more like a real BMW salesmen. We tried once more, repeating our first question:

OK, why should I buy an i3?

i Genius was quick to respond:

Is there anything else you would like me to tell you about BMW i? There is so much more to discover. Or why not take a look at bmw.co.uk/bmwi

At this point we gave up. We may not have had to move from the sofa to ask i Genius questions, but it looks like BMW got their salesmen to formulate the answers; answers that are designed not to answer what you’re actually asking.

At least at the BMW dealers you get a cup of coffee made for you.

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Tell us what you think - Leave a comment

  1. There has been a lot of buzz around electric cars recently with the brand new BMW. We just wrote a story about how purchasing solar panels and an electric car at the same time can actually save you more money than if you choose only one. One couple proved that this really works, and we have both their story and the numbers behind it on our blog! Check out the Aggarwal’s story here: http://bit.ly/13prTo1

  2. Works for me though. Asked three question about the car itself – the system responded brilliantly to each one of those in a matter of seconds.

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