New technology promises to enrich the car buying experience

Jaguar Land Rover is planning a major revamp of its dealerships, and included in the updates will be the implementation of virtual reality technology to enhance the car-buying experience.

That’s the latest from Automotive News, which spoke with Jaguar Land Rover’s North America CEO Joe Eberhardt at the 2016 Paris Motor Show.

“We will have some virtual reality experiences in our dealerships. I think that will be a big part of the showroom experience,” Eberhardt told the news outlet, adding that VR is best suited for engaging customers prior to the arrival of a new model.

Conceivably, the technology can be used to check out a cabin space in a variety of different trim levels and colors, and it would allow potential buyers to look at certain models not currently in stock at one particular dealer.

“I think there’s definitely a space for that, and we’re working on that as we speak,” Eberhardt said in regards to the various use of the technology. “It will never replace the real dealer experience, but it will have a big role, a very prominent role in the sales process going forward.”

According to Automotive News, JLR is currently updating its dealerships to include a new “arch store design,” creating a space that will include both the Jaguar and Land Rover brands. The first such redesigned dealership was opened recently in Darien, Connecticut.

Additionally, JLR is looking into different ways of connecting online and in-store shopping.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why It Matters

The typical car buying experience is still surprisingly old fashioned. Sure, folks can look up info and reviews online, even using their smartphones to compare similar models right there in the dealership, but overall, it’s basically the same experience you’d get fifty years ago. More info, yes, but still the same experience.

Now, it’s looking like that might change. Plugging in with a virtual reality headset is a great way to give buyers a look at the various possibilities a model might offer. After all, a brochure can only go so far in giving buyers a glimpse at what new materials or different color schemes will look like when fully laid out.

Which begs the question – at what point does the experience become so digitized that dealers start to get phased out altogether?

While a prospect like that is still several decades in the making, the idea isn’t totally inconceivable. Once virtual reality becomes more mainstream, I could see car buying make a big shift to a new online format. You just log on, find your model, put your headset on, and try it out. No waiting, no annoying sales pressure, just you and your digital car.

It would be even cooler to extend this tech to the actual driving experience, especially with sporty, performance-oriented models. While taking every potential buyer out for a track day would be awesome, it can get pretty expensive. Shelby has one such “Try Before You Buy” program, offering participants a chance to wring out a high-spec Mustang of their choice with a little professional driving instruction along the way, but cost for entry is a steep $2,500. Granted, that money goes towards the purchase of a new Shelby vehicle if you wanna take the plunge, and you get a pretty nice bag of swag, but it’s still not cheap.

Put the same experience into virtual reality, and suddenly, it’s all much more accessible. Plus, you won’t have to pay out the nose if you accidently stuff that shiny new sports car.

Personally, I’m not surprised to hear about this coming from Jaguar Land Rover. The British brand has already toyed with the idea of outfitting its models with augmented reality technology, so why not virtual reality in the dealerships?

What about you? Would you buy a car after a digital test drive, or would you have to wait to get behind the wheel IRL? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Automotive News

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