BMW of North America has begun unveiling a new sales tool dubbed the BMW Virtual Sales Center (VSC), which the company calls the first project of its kind to hit automotive showrooms across the United States. Due to arrive at BMW sales centers across the country this year, the interactive station gives visual demonstrations of features that cannot be shown during the average test-drive experience. The VSC makes available informational video, such as crash tests, and demonstrates specific BMW features that enable various models to perform well in unstable weather conditions such as snow, sleet and heavy rain - a key selling point in today's market, as noted by dealers nationwide. "It's impossible to demonstrate how models will perform during bad weather or in an accident during a test-drive," said Jim McDowell, vice president of marketing for BMW of North America, LLC. "The VSC is an excellent sales tool in demonstrating features that are becoming an increasingly important element of consumers' purchasing decisions." High-end hardware allows the VSC to display non-streaming DVD quality video. Connected by high-speed Internet access, video clips and up-to-date information can be uploaded to VSC's across the country overnight - a major advantage over the previous system implemented in 1995. Previous interactive showroom sales tools utilized CD-based technology, which had to be distributed to individual dealers on a regular basis. The VSC units deliver "a full, BMW branding experience," according to Holly Babich, BMW's consumer events manager, the executive who turned BMW's vision into an innovative showroom-marketing tool. "The VSC provides DVD-quality sight, sound and motion including lush driving footage of every series and model. And it all happens within a few feet of the sight and aroma of the actual vehicles." In addition to these features, the VSC gives customers hands-on experience with the new 7 Series feature, iDrive. One of the key elements of idrive is a centrally located rotary knob that allows the driver or front seat passenger to set preference for a wide range of vehicle functions, including climate control, navigation, telephone and entertainment. "The iDrive simulator is the next best thing to a test drive," according to Babich, "because it features the actual software and hardware used in the new 7 Series. It allows customers to experience the full power of what BMW's Design Director Chris Bangle calls an 'intuitive approach to driving that puts the driver first.'" "High-speed Web access also means that for personal interaction like Build Your Own BMW, the VSC rapidly and seamlessly secures the appropriate page within BMW's web site," Babich said. "Now our customers can explore different models and colors until their dream car appears. But with a major difference from pure web interaction. This time, a BMW client advisor will be standing by, ready to turn that dream into a sale." The VSC also includes full-screen versions of such things as BMW's innovative Internet film series, The Hire. In creating the stations, BMW said it put a high priority on communicating the richness of the BMW brand. "A BMW is far more than the sum of its parts," said Babich. "It's the whiff of racing legend, of James Bond, and more recently The Hire - BMW's award-winning Internet film series created by renowned directors John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Guy Ritchie and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. For those who might have missed it, or who want to see it again bigger and better, The Hire is all there, too, easily accessible through the main menu." The sleek design of the VSC features a polished beveled glass tabletop along with two high stools, inviting consumers to sit and experience the world of BMW. Adding to the design are two powder-coated metal doors. When open, the unit reveals the multimedia touch screen and changeable graphic panels. Closed, the unit has a sturdy look and feel, with an aluminum and chrome plated steel body that reflects the design elements of the interior of the BMW Center showroom. Concealed storage compartments and lockable keyboard unit are located beneath the glass tabletop surface for dealer accessibility. BMW of North America, LLC. teamed with Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc., a full-service merchandising company based in Grafton, Wis., to design and build the BMW Virtual Sales Center (VSC). Frank Mayer & Associates in turn brought aboard award winning partners: Reality Pictures of New York City for all video and graphic content; Netkey, Inc., of Branford, Conn., for its patented, Web-enabled kiosk management software, its video integration expertise and its overall software solutions know-how; and Omni Tech Corp of Pewaukee, Wis., to supply the hardware that would support BMW's vision of a fast, connected system. About BMW Group in America BMW of North America has been present in the United States since 1975. Since then, the BMW Group in the United States has grown to include marketing, sales and financial service organizations for the BMW and MINI brands; a South Carolina manufacturing operation; DESIGNWORKS/USA, an industrial design firm in California; a technology office in Silicon Valley and various other operations throughout the country. The BMW Group is represented in the U.S. through networks of 340 BMW car, 327 BMW sports activity vehicle, 148 BMW motorcycle retailers and 53 MINI car dealers. BMW US Holding Corp., the Group's headquarters for North, Central and South America, is located in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Information about BMW Group products is available to consumers via the Internet at, and