Q&A with Manfred Scharmach
Head of the only family owned BMW dealership in Western Washington
By Marguerite Cleveland
Photo by Samantha Tillman
Manfred Scharmach heads the only family owned BMW dealership in Western Washington. Last year BMW Northwest celebrated their 50th anniversary and is one of the oldest BMW dealerships in the nation. Werner Scharmach, Manfred’s father, immigrated from Germany in 1956 and began his career as an auto mechanic. His hard work paid off when he was able to open his own business, European Motor Service. In 1968, BMW offered Werner a franchise, and before the sign was even up the family sold eight cars. With Manfred now at the helm, the family dream continues not only a successful business but a legacy of community involvement and support.
Q. BMW Northwest is a strong supporter of community and charitable causes with a 50-year track record of giving. In addition to your personal involvement, can you tell us how you have encouraged your employees to get involved?
A. My dad always made time for community and is proud to have been one of the founders of the Clover Park Rotary Chapter. Over the years, we’ve supported many causes like the American Heart Association and great organizations like America’s Car Museum and Washington Premier Football Club. For our 50th anniversary, my wife Lori and I wanted to expand our charitable reach and impact and pledged $50k of giving. Each of the 250 employees was allocated funds to direct to a 501(c)(3) cause of their choice. There are many worthy organizations we were able to work with through this program that we’ll be expanding it this year to include a donation request element called Say Yes! (to giving).
Q. Tacoma is home to two car museums, but not many people know you have a collection of vintage cars (all BMWs?) that you share with the public. Can you tell us about the collection and how one can go see it?
A. I’ve been collecting BMWs for around 20 years, and we have 14 cars in the collection on display at the BMW Northwest Pre-Owned Center showroom in Fife. My first collector car is the ’88 M6 that we took in trade, although I’m most attached to the ‘72 2002 TII. In 1963 my dad opened his first company European Motor Service in Olympia. He was approached to sell BMWs in ’68. It was the 1600 and 2002 models that jump started sales. After that, Dad changed the name from European Motors to BMW Northwest.
Q. You serve on the BMW Product Committee representing the U.S. Any new model teasers you can share with our readers?
A. We can’t discuss much of the information we are privy to back in Germany. I can say that BMW is very invested in the highest level of autonomous driving. And it’s only a couple of years away. We’ll see level 3 and 4 coming on line in the next year or so. BMW is focused on safety and technology in electrification and making sure that it drives like a BMW, not like a box of batteries going down the road.
Q. Werner, your 87-year-old father, daughter Maddie (who recently took on the role of company spokesperson) and you will film a commercial together this summer. Can you share how special that is to have three generations come together to celebrate what your father started 50 years ago?
A. I think you said it. It’s extremely special and makes you reflect on the last 50 years. In the early days when my dad would have to put down his wrench to toss someone keys for a test drive, I doubt he envisioned that same company would one day be named Washington Family Business of the Year in the LARGE business category. My dad and mom worked hard to build the foundation of BMW Northwest. He set the example on how to run a business and how to take care of each customer and to pay attention to every detail. It’s the cornerstone of how we do business today.