Write-up by Glenn on how he got cloth seats on his E46

Here's the deal. In Septembert of 98 I started doing research into buying an E46. From the BMW web sites in Germany and Canada I knew that they routinely make E46s with cloth seats. In fact, the German brochure lists cloth and leather, but not leatherette!

I corresponded with a couple of people in Canada and Germany and found that BMW AG didn't have a problem putting cloth seats in US spec. cars, but that BMWNA might take convincing and a that lot of dealers either don't know that this sort of thing can be done, or else don't want to make the extra effort to get their customers what they want.

At one dealer (Claridge's in Fremont) they required a $5K nonrefundable deposit before they would even inquire whether it was possible! My second try was more successful with the fleet salesman at another dealer (Victor Hung at Peter Pan). He didn't hesitate to FAX BMWNA to find out 1) whether it was doable, 2) how much would it cost and 3) how long it would take.

The answers came back 1) yes, 2) no extra charge! and 3) 4-6 weeks in addition to the length of time for a "normal" factory order. It turned out that the delivery time was the same as for a normal factory order!

No special deposit was required from this salesman at this dealer $1000 refundable.

I took a risk because I wasn't exactly sure what the seats would look like (texture and how dark the color would be) because the dealer didn't have any samples. I chose the gray and I'm very happy with the choice. There is enough contrast with the various parts of the interior so it isn't monotonous.

The basic colors available (in Germany) are E3AP mint green, E3DL navy blue, E3AT anthracite (black) and E3TT gray. I felt the green would be a bit much, my dealer had just gotten back from Germany and said that the blue was very dark and I didn't want black (cars get too hot here in the summer), so that left gray.

All of this information is for MY99. You might check with Jon to find out if anything has changed.

My advice for someone wanting cloth seats is to involve the sales manager or even go to a different dealer if the salesman says that cloth seats can't be ordered for an E46.

Some people say that the hassle about ordering the nonstandard stuff is due to the extra expense caused by the logistics of doing specials in a mass production environment.

That may be true for some things, like nonstandard paint colors, where clearly extra time and expense is required on their part.

But what about wheel choices, for instance? Although it would just require bolting on a different set at the end of the process, BMWNA is dead set against letting you order anything but the style designated for the package you order. In Germany, you can order your 323 with any one of five styles 42 16 inch, 43 16 inch, 45 16 inch, 44 17 inch, 32 18 inch. I can't figure out why BMW NA would choose to make so many customers angry for something that would be so easy for them to allow BMW AG doesn't mind, why is BMW NA so against it? (BTW there are no packages per se when ordering a BMW in Germany. For instance, you can order a sport suspension with or without sport seats or 18 inch wheels.)