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BMW, Audi rethink media launches in COVID era

Coronavirus restrictions prompt new ways of doing things – now, and perhaps forever

19 May 2020

STRICT hygiene requirements and heavy social and travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced car-makers to rethink the way they conduct new-model introductions, with various brands including BMW and Audi having to improvise to get through their busy launch schedules this year.


With a variety of new models arriving in the country over the past few weeks, the companies involved have been forced to come up with new and safe ways to launch and sample their vehicles.


And it could mark a permanent shift in industry practice, remaining in place after the pandemic subsides.


Traditionally, manufacturers stage a national media launch by bringing journalists and other media representatives from across the country to a single location, where the car-maker will thoroughly detail the new product being launched before offering a range of vehicles to drive and interviews to be conducted.


However, restrictions on travel and meeting in groups has meant that such a method is no longer viable, with BMW and Audi among those to adapt to a more regional model that still allows cars to be driven safely.


In the case of BMW, instead of conducting one single launch event, the Bavarian prestige brand decided to offer cars to drive out of a single location – in the case of Melburnians, its Mulgrave head office – with individual drivers arriving at staggered times to complete a drive-test program set by the company.


Information on the vehicles including press kits and interview opportunities could all be completed online.


Launching three different vehicles – the X5 M, X6 M and M8 – BMW had to ensure the cars were clean and ready to be used over a two-week rotation involving a number of journalists.


“A total of seven cars were allocated to the BMW X5 M, X6 M Competition and M8 Competition Coupe launch, with each vehicle cleaned and disinfected between rotations throughout the two-week launch period to ensure the health and safety of all participating journalists,” a BMW Australia spokesperson told GoAuto.


“The preparation and sanitation process required one detailer. To ensure vehicles were ready for collection on the allocated days, they were prepared and sanitised a day earlier and stored in the workshop, under cover, to maintain a high level of cleanliness and ensure minimal contact with external sources or airborne elements.”


BMW allocated 90 minutes of cleaning time for each test car, to allow a thorough clean and sanitisation of each vehicle.


The company said its workshop technicians were given training on how to adequately sanitise the cars to avoid the risk of infection.


“Each detailer received advice and training on the new process for cleaning and sanitation,” the spokesperson said. “This included reminders to wear approved gloves prior to cleaning, wearing a mask for the sanitation procedure and a tutorial on how to effectively apply the sanitiser.”


Both the exterior and the interior of the car was thoroughly cleaned, starting from the outside with doorhandles, boot release buttons and key fobs.


Inside, the main touchpoints of vehicles were sanitised such as the steering wheel, seat switches, seatbelt elements and centre console, as well as the front and rear seats.


BMW said it was already planning a change to its launch operations before state and national guidelines were announced, with the altered plan developed in-house.


The company also said it would now conduct a review into its launch programming and operations when the threat of COVID-19 eases.


“The new format does bring a new perspective on what can be achieved with strict limits in place – and although there is merit associated with the previous event format, we have received positive feedback on the revised approach,” the spokesperson said.


“In light of this, and when restrictions are lifted, we will conduct a review of our event operations and consider how and if we can integrate elements of the adapted event format in our future launch events.”


Likewise, Audi is in the midst of a huge product launch offensive, having launched the Q3 Sportback, revised Q7 large SUV, S6, S7, SQ7 and SQ8 in the past couple of months.


Audi has also reverted to an online product presentation and individual drive launch format, which for Victorian attendees is being run out of the service centre of its Audi Brighton dealership.


It has also adopted a similar sanitation protocol with its technicians making sure vehicles are appropriately cleaned before being handed over.

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