The car dealership of the future

Technology is evolving the sales world quickly, but are car dealerships being forced to play catch-up? Or have they got a special set of customers that require the old-fashioned retail approach? We sat down with Michael Lindgren, CEO of Alliance Leasing, to get his take on the state of modern car sales.

People are still addicted to the touch and feel of a car

When you buy a piece of art, you don’t just look at a picture of it and think “that’ll look fine”. It will probably look very different in real life. It’s unlike buying food, which you’re buying for the taste, and it’s unlike buying a book, which you purchase for the contents.

A car is bought to be driven, and you’re likely to have passengers occasionally too. It’s also a big investment, so making sure you’re happy with every little aspect of it before you commit to taking on a novated lease is vital. The only way you can truly do that is by touching, driving and all-around experiencing the car in real life.

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“Currently, most dealers stick to the old-fashioned large showroom and physical viewing of a vehicle,” said Michael.

“They have been moving toward technology through the use of videos, and ‘build your own car’ web platforms where the customers get a 360-degree view of a model and you can add and remove different modifications and accessories. However, there is still a lot more they could do to enhance the customer experience.”

While choosing which colour to paint your car, how many extra seat trims you can apply in the cabin and what sort of sound system to add are all fun to play around with online, they don’t replace actually driving a car. What you get on a screen is merely a representation of the car, but it can look very different blown up to regular size.

Something you also miss out on when you order online is the sound of the engine. This can be a major selling point for many people, as can the performance of a car.

Videos of someone taking your favourite BMW around a race track in an advertisement might be cool to look at, but it is no substitution for taking it out on the road for a spin yourself. Doing so removes any possibility that you won’t like how it feels on the road, and Michael backs that up, as “the physical touch and feel of a car is what sells it”.

What sort of technology could change how car dealerships operate?

The rise of virtual reality (VR) is already changing how people play games and watch movies, and Michael believes that it could be the future of dealer sales.

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“I think VR technology will have a huge effect on the industry. Just imagine being able to test drive your favourite model on a track or in a city of your choosing, all from the comfort of your own home. The ability to interact with a  vehicle on a virtual platform would be amazing, adding different extras, changing styles within the car, all while you virtually sit in it. It wouldn’t just be on a picture.

“Customers could do it from home, and there is no need to have demonstration vehicles racking up kilometres. You could even do it 24/7. You may lose some of the experience of a real car, but it means you could test drive 50 cars in one evening and then pick your favourite. If you were able to do this 24/7, from anywhere in the world, I think there would be an increase in vehicle purchases Australia-wide.”

What do you think of VR becoming available in a dealership near you? To talk about the best ways to get into your next car, contact Alliance Leasing today.