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South Sound BMW

The next generation BMW dealership is here

Back in 1984 Joe Rogers and Larry Vevig started Tacoma BMW. Intent on keeping things small, Rogers and Vevig ran the business with only two other partners for two decades. Reminiscent of an old school motorcycle shop, Tacoma BMW existed on Pacific Highway in the southern end of Tacoma until 2003 when the franchise was sold to Keith and Ann Thye, owners of Seattle's Ride West BMW.

But the Thye's weren't intent on keeping things small for long. For starters it was time to relocate the dealership. Over the last 15 years the Fife corridor of I-5 has developed into a high end car dealer strip. One blight on the landscape was Untied Furniture Warehouse on the southwest end of the strip. With that closing in 2003, the Thye's approached the building owner and completed a purchase of the vacant large yellow box. "We simply made a cold call to him and it turned out the time was right for him to sell" says owner Keith Thye. All was in place to raise the profile of BMW motorcycles in the south end significantly.

The Thye's took numerous trip to various BMW dealerships around the country shaping their plans for the interior design work that lay ahead. Their mission was to create a state-of-the-art dealership and what would be the largest single line BMW dealer in the world at the time of it's launch.

Much had been learned when they moved Ride West BMW, to new digs in 2000. The Thye's already understood how to create a world class tech area, create a nice showroom and provide a comfortable space for customers to enjoy the BMW shopping experience. But this time their work was cut out due to the significant size and the building, not only length and width, but the height as well.

Length and width issues were easily overcome, but the high ceiling presented issues. What to do with all that space. The budget would not allow a second story to be built, so instead they simply used materials that darkened the upper areas and dropped the lighting to floor level.

The service department has been designed to accommodate both service customer needs as well as the sales department needs with all new units being assembled in a specially created area. Future plans are to handle assembly in this area for all new units that will be sent north at Ride West.

Obviously with the direct connection to Ride West, one could fall into the trap of running two simultaneous dealerships with out a varience in identity. "But that's the challenge for us," says South Sound General Manager, Brendan Ferrer. "We need to create unique events and promotions for our store, that separate us from our sister store in Seattle."

South Sound will continue to support the Snow Camp event each year, where up to 100 riders gather to camp in the snow on the south side of Mt. Rainier, eat, ride, eat, keep warm and eat.

Photo L-R: South Sound BMW GM Brendan Ferrer, BMW NW Regional Manager, Kirk Levi, South Sound BMW owners Ann & Keith Thye.

South Sound BMW is also in the process of creating their own schedule of events including store swap meets, rides and special sale events. The Thye's are currently looking for a marketing coordinator to work between the two stores and insure there are lots of events going on that don't conflict with one another.

Employee longevity is something hard to come by in the motorcycle business. The Thye's have been fortunate to have a low turn over rate and develop skilled employees at Ride West. As a result they were able to send several of their seasoned staff to Fife to open and run South Sound BMW. Along with Ferrer, long time sales person Wayne Elston as well as several other parts and service staffers headed south from Seattle to create the inaugural staff. Former Tacoma BMW owner, Larry Vevig, and technician Fred Kistenmacher stayed on as well.

But there's yet another story in all this. It's the story of how BMW has grown as an entity in the Northwest over the last decade. Ten years ago there were several dealer franchises in the region, all operating in a small dealer like fashion. As soon as James Bond took off on an R1200C back in the late 90's things really started to change for BMW in general as well as the local area dealerships. Since 2000 there have been several new dealerships open in Oregon, 3 dealerships in the Northwest have moved to larger locations and sales have nearly doubled as a result.

Introductions of new models such as the F650CS, the entire R1150 series, the R1200GS and now the K1200RS have kept things hoping for the sales staff. In the case of the R1200S, the new in-line-four sportbike from BMW, dealers have taken numerous advance deposits from customers eager to get one as soon as they arrive on US shores.

BMW as a whole has evolved considerably over the last decade and South Sound BMW is poised to play a significant role in the further development of the brand.

Tom Mehren/Summer 2004


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