Big changes to how we buy cars revealed
Fancy test driving and buying a car from the comfort of your living room?
The concept may seem far fetched, but carmakers are rapidly moving towards a showroom-free business model, cashing in on the COVID-inspired popularity of online sales.
An increasing number of brands have introduced tech that allows motorists to simulate virtual test-drives at home using augmented reality.
Volkswagen today announced the introduction of tech that creates a virtual dealership in the buyer's living room, allowing them to digitally kick the tyres on the brand's new T-Cross and T-Roc SUVs.
Buyers can get a full 360 degree view of the car and can closely inspect the cabin area. Users can turn on the lights, get a feel for the interior features, take an audio tour as well as see how the car looks in different colours. They can even virtually park it in their driveway.
The tech is part of a big push by the German maker to grow its online presence. Since April this year, VW has sold about $36 million worth of cars online.
Ford is also offering prospective "desk drives" of the new Escape SUV. The "desk drive" is a live Facebook event on the maker's website where a presenter does a walkaround of the car, explaining the various features, then takes questions from prospective customers. The brand hosted a similar event for its Puma SUV and says it has been viewed 400,000 times.
One of the early adopters of the new tech is 47-year-old Sydney resident Brendon Drysdale who bought a VW Amarok ute online recently sight unseen.
"I'd never bought a car online before, but I do a lot of online shopping," said Mr Drysdale.
"And in the end I knew I was going to go into the dealership to pick up the car anyway."
Mr Drysdale said he would definitely buy his next car online.
"Buying my car online was about saving the legwork. I had no reason to be running from dealership to dealership."
Retail and consumer behaviour expert Anastasia Lloyd-Wallis said online retail sales had grown across Australia from about nine to 15 per cent, since March.
She said many retail businesses had added five years worth of digital advancements in the past six months.
"Technology like augmented reality gives the consumer confidence in the product they see online is exactly like what turns up, so they don't have to physically see it anymore," said Ms Lloyd-Wallis.
Volkswagen's chief marketing officer, Jason Bradshaw, said: "The launch of Volkswagen's smallest dealership and AR experience is all about making buying a car online easier and more convenient so Aussies can find, test out and then customise the perfect car for them."
Ms Lloyd-Wallis said that Australians are now getting more comfortable with online purchases and have worked their way up from smaller ticket items such as fashion and groceries into cars and high end items such as jewellery.
She said all ages - even Baby Boomers - were embracing online sales and emerging tech such as AR.
"Pre-COVID we saw about 55 per cent of those aged 59 and above were interested in using augmented reality in their retail purchases, which blew me off my feet. " said Ms Lloyd-Wallis.
She believes buyers are becoming much more savvy and doing extensive research before buying, which takes a lot of the guesswork and anxiety out.
Other carmakers embracing the digital revolution include Subaru and tech-savvy Tesla, developing online sales.
Originally published as Big changes to how we buy cars revealed