The meteoric rise of digital technology is changing the whole culture around the car buying process, according to industry leaders.
Speaking at SMMT’s International Automotive Summit today at Canary Wharf, Ian Webber, Head of Automotive at Microsoft, claimed that increasingly time-poor consumers who want to engage dealers on their own terms are doing so digitally.
“The brand experience is more important to the car buyer than ever, and with 54% of people now owning a smartphone, digital technology is becoming central to customers’ engagement with car retailers,” said Webber.
Compared with more established companies, electric car manufacturer Tesla has been able to take advantage of its relative youth by basing its retail experience on the latest technology, rather than having to update existing procedures.
The company has just launched the right-hand-drive version of its Model S saloon in the UK, and its UK and Ireland Country Director, Georg Ell, spoke about how it aims to deliver a completely different experience to the consumer.
“There will be a digital element to everything the customer does through the buying process,” said Ell. “For example, if you are trading in an old Tesla for a new model, our telematics will tell us the mileage of the car and its condition – allowing us to come up with a valuation very quickly.
“The physical experience of a car is still key, however, and there’s no substitute for trying a car out in real life to see if it’s right for you.”
Ell also confirmed that Tesla is committed to providing free public charging for its super-charging network when it is rolled out.
Meanwhile Nick Ratcliffe, Head of Marketing at Audi UK, spoke about the company’s two-year-old digital showroom in London. Giving a very different front-of-house experience from the traditional dealership, Audi City sends customers through a labyrinth of touchscreens and virtual technology to allow them to develop the best possible understanding of a car without it being in the showroom.