Auto Makers Digitize Test Drive Experience During Lockdown


Dealerships are doing what they can to digitize their selling experiences as the pandemic has changed the way we shop.

Car dealerships are digitizing test drive experience for customers due to the coronavirus lockdowns, according to The Wall Street Journal.?

Pande=mic lockdown orders have made car companies’ showrooms empty in the U.S. for the past few months, and vehicle sales have dropped 59 percent below the expectations before the coronavirus crisis. As a result, car makers are seeking digitalization of the showroom experience for their buyers.

Infiniti, a luxury-car division of Nissan Motor Co., has turned to videoconferencing software to present its cars. Employees are trained on how to produce virtual walk-throughs with tips on lighting, sound and backdrops. Customers are offered the test drive opportunity by taking it solo.

“We explain the things that they should be looking for, and maybe plan out a route and suggest the types of driving they should do,” said Matthew Wilson, Infiniti’s director of client experience and training. Roughly 60 percent of the company’s sellers are bringing fully sanitized test-drive cars to the customers, he said, and contracts can be signed via email.

Wilson said that virtual retail experience will be offered even after the lockdown, as 70 percent of Infiniti’s customers who are aware of the remote showroom expressed interest in continuing it beyond the pandemic.

Including Infiniti, many car makers have started on digital initiatives before the pandemic, but saw things accelerating due to the lockdown. “Now, there’s been this unearthing and acceleration of all those products,”Christophe Castagnera of experience marketing agency Imagination Group Ltd. said. “It’s like their time has come.”

Volvo Car USA also saw the number of digital retail more than doubled from March to May, a company spokesman said, even after the gradual reopening of in-person showrooms in May.

Carvana Co. has attracted customers with its showroom-free model, which saved time and money for buyers, as the company offers high-definition, 360-degree photography at its Car Vending Machines.

However, showrooms will still remain vital to the car retail business. Mercedes-Benz AG in Germany reported 80 percent of customers still wanting to receive in-person advice and test drives. But the showrooms could evolve, Castagnera of Imagination Group predicted, where city or mall based car-free showrooms and direct-to-home services could implement traditional marketing methods.

See the full report here.


Economics, Finance and Investing