Car dealerships could become a thing of the past as the automotive industry realises its future success rests on buyers having a good experience, according to a leading branding consultancy.
Group XP said firms were starting to realise that having to visit a dealership and negotiate a deal on your new vehicle is often an inconvenient and unpleasant experience for buyers.
They predicted in their The Future of Mobility Experience report that automotive firms would start to wrestle back control of the purchasing process in coming years.
And they said technology would play a crucial role in creating a better experience for customers, with things like Microsoft’s HoloLens (which mixes virtual reality with the real world) allowing firms to offer motorists test-drives in different “virtual” surroundings.
The group said automotive brands must start to “consider themselves to be service providers, rather than builders”.
They added: “In a technically charged world of innovative connectivity, it seems ridiculous that consumers still have to travel (often by car!) to clinical out-of-town warehouses in order to spend time wheeling and dealing a 10% reduction off their family’s new wheels.
“Dealers and dealerships, as we know them, will ultimately outlive their purpose as mobility brands take back control of this part of the user journey.
“They’ll move towards offering a greater level of transparency in the purchasing process, as well as a greater diversity in the range of purchase opportunities and formats.
“Technology will play a fundamental role here, with VR and innovations like Microsoft’s HoloLens offering consumers a more comprehensive test-drive (rain, snow, desert, city, mountains etc.) and purchase experience than could ever be offered in the physical world.”
Car firm Volvo is already working with Microsoft on ways they could use the HoloLens to improve customer experience.
Group XP — part of the world’s biggest advertising and marketing company WPP — said they also believed brands would only survive if they were “generous” towards consumers, and worked with other firms that shared their “higher purpose”.
They predicted that things like vehicle customisation would become much more common, and that ultimately the whole car-ownership model will change, with subscriptions to “mobility services” — where we sign up to transport providers who pick us up and drop us off — one likely outcome.
Meanwhile autonomous transport systems could well arrive “sooner than we expect”, they said, adding that automotive brands would have to adapt or “face extinction”.
The report said: “Brands that say they stand for power/pleasure (‘the ultimate driving machine’) or superiority (‘the best or nothing’) will find themselves eclipsed by brands with a more social outlook (‘let’s go places’).”