a wet and dicey surface), accident avoidance, timed autocross, and speed laps. The chance to have the first encounter with the next Audi model to be released is the prized perk for attendees.
BMW: The BMW Performance Center (www.bmwusa.com) in Spartanburg, a remote section of South Carolina, is designed to provide “enthusiasts with the ultimate driving experience,” explains the center’s spokesperson Maureen O’Connell.
BMW’s programs include overnight driving experiences for women that are taught by professional female drivers. These sessions emphasize defensive driving and vehicle control. There is also a program designed for teens who need to build confidence behind the wheel.
The two-day M Experience, which features the high-performance M3 coupe and M5 sedan on a Michelin test track, is extremely popular with enthusiasts. “It’s M heaven,” says O’Connell. Visiting this facility for an invite-only occasion is one of the perks of owning a BMW. Having owned three BMWs, Thomason is among the select few to receive an invitation.
In September 2003, he participated in a two-day test drive of the BMW Z4. “Twenty to 30 people attended,” recalls Thomason, “all well-connected professionals who will likely do desirable word-of-mouth marketing. The people BMW selected were 34 to 45, established, and might be on their third or fourth BMW.”
Guests were served exotic teas and equipped with an X-Box-like gadget for the first level of the simulation exercise. They then moved on to a driving booth (similar to those at amusement parks) to sample varying terrains with true car-to-road sensation and reaction. After lunch, guests were escorted to a closed figure-eight-shaped course and paired with a BMW representative for the actual preview drive.
VIP Delivery Experience: BMW
The Delivery Experience at BMW’s factory in South Carolina requires an overnight stay courtesy of the automaker. The experience consists of three sessions. Sessions one and two cover orientation and an individualized run on a course to demonstrate the car’s advanced capabilities. Using a walkie-talkie, an instructor steers attendees through a rigorous course of “black ice water wall” drills that enhances steering skills and tests timing reaction. Module three is a tour of the Zentrum Museum in South Carolina, followed by a tour of BMW’s state-of-the-art assembly plant for Z4s and X5s — a privilege reserved for buyers.
GENERAL MOTORS: Since the National Corvette Museum, www.corvettemuseum .com, opened in 1994, its VIP NCM Delivery Program has delivered 2,949 R8 Corvettes, says program coordinator Judy Yanko. Buyers who prefer the experience of collecting their new car at the Bowling Green, Kentucky, facility receive a thorough orientation and a personal 90-minute tour of the museum and assembly plant. Unlike public tours, VIP guests are invited to view where “the engine and transmission come together, the electrical wiring, [as well as] drive off at the end of the line,” Yanko explains. VIP guests also execute the first turn of the ignition key. NCM satisfies roughly 350 requests per year for this one-of-a-kind experience, which it commemorates for the buyer with a gold decal and plaque bearing the customer’s name, delivery date, and VIN. It