Every year, 17 million cars are sold and exchange hands between dealerships and customers. Despite this ever-growing demand, the car dealership industry has remained relatively stagnant. There have been very few changes in the sales pipeline of the major dealerships, so they’re due for a major upgrade.
What might the future of car sales look like? With advancements in AI and autonomous technology, the time-tested model for car lots being used today is likely going to change. The question is how?
A Robot Salesperson?
Imagine it is time to purchase your next vehicle and you drive to the car dealership and park, but instead of being greeted by a person a robot is there to meet you. The robot greets you with a friendly “hello” and then displays a hologram from its midsection that shows the latest cars available from which to choose. It asks you to touch the car you would like to see first and informs you that you can rotate it by swiping if you want to view a different angle.
After choosing a car, you examine it from a few different angles then tell the robot you would like to take it for a test drive. Suddenly, the robot transforms and two pedals pop out from either side. It asks you to carefully step on the pedals and you ride the robot to the car like a Segway. When you arrive at the vehicle, the robot transforms again and goes into hibernation mode. That is when a virtual version of the robot pops up on the dashboard of the vehicle and asks you to step inside.
Before you drive anywhere, the robot informs you to put on your seat belt and it goes through a demonstration of all of the features the vehicle has and highlights each of them as it goes down the list. Satisfied with the demonstration, you want to take it for a test drive so the robot starts the vehicle for you. Suddenly it roars to life and you are in control.
The Car Dealership Re-imagined for the VR Age
This is one example of what a future car dealership may look like but let’s look at a different scenario, one that doesn’t even involve leaving your home.
It’s entirely possible that technology will continue to advance so that now every home has a virtual reality headset. You decide it’s time for a new car but you don’t want to leave the house because it’s snowing outside. You put on your virtual reality headset and gesture that you would like to visit a pay here buy here car lot. You swipe your hand and select the dealership you want to visit that is closest to you.
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A Virtually Real Test Drive
After choosing the dealership, the visit begins and suddenly you are transported to the dealership. You enter the lot and are greeted by a virtual assistant who offers to help you. You tell it that you are looking for a mid-size sedan with a V6 and the sales representative snaps his fingers. Suddenly you are at a different part of the dealership where a row of new models is lined up. You select the model you want to learn more about and the virtual sales representative describes it in detail. Now you want to take it for a test drive. You open the door and sit in the driver’s seat. Everything looks real and you even forget you aren’t actually in the car. You push the button to turn it on and suddenly you and the car is at a race track in Germany. The racetrack features all kinds of road and weather conditions.
As you take the vehicle for a drive, you hit a part of the track where it suddenly becomes hurricane conditions and you turn on the windshield wipers. A few seconds later, you are in a blizzard and test the traction and brakes in the snowy conditions. Satisfied with the car’s performance, you tell the sales representative you want to buy the car. You give your password and the purchase is complete. The sales representative informs you the car will arrive within two hours and just like that, you are now minutes away from driving your new car.
An Uncertain Future
These examples may seem like science fiction, but there are prototypes of these new ways to buy a car in the works right now. It’s an exciting time for automotive dealerships as we may be on the brink of a new paradigm that sees people use cars in an entirely new way. Though we have no idea where this new world will take us, car dealerships will certainly need to innovate to compete or face obsolescence.