Virtual reality… who needs a car showroom any more?

  • Take an SUV desert test drive – in your pyjamas
  • Try any car, anywhere, for as long as you wish
  • Virtual reality helped to design the latest Ford Fiesta
GOING VIRTUAL: Who needs a sales person? Image: Ford / Newspress
GOING VIRTUAL: Who needs a sales person when you can test-drive a car in your pyjamas? Image: Ford / Newspress

COLOGNE, Germany – Virtual reality (VR) is predicted to fundamentally change the way we live over the coming decades. *  Cinemas will immerse audiences in VR movies, patients will undergo VR treatment and customers will enter the world of the products or services in which they are interested.

Cars included.

Ford is already using VR for vehicle design; not it’s exploring how the technology might change the retail experience.

Jeffrey Nowak, Ford’s global digital experience chief, told The Corner in a media release: “It’s a blank canvas. Somebody considering the purchase of, say, an SUV could experience it out in desert dunes without leaving home.

“If you’re after a city car, relax in bed in your PJs and try the school run.”

GOING VIRTUAL: Who needs a sales person? Image: Ford / Newspress
GOING VIRTUAL: Hold out a welcoming hand to the new way to experience buying a car. Image: Ford / Newspress

Online shoppers can already ‘try before they buy’ for, say, spectacles and clothes but Ford’s global trend manager Sheryl Connelly believes they are sometimes baffled by the overwhelming choice that leads to ‘Decider’s Dilemma‘. **

She explained: “The internet has abundant choice. That affects commitment. Products and services are adapting to accommodate a ‘sampling society’ that prioritises trying over buying.”

TEST SMELL AS WELL

The biggest trigger of car sales, after price, is, Ford believes, “purely emotional”. *** The test drive can be a crucial “first date” for the customer and what might be their next car. Being able to try various models through VR, when and where it suits them and for as long as they wish, could also mean customers have a much clearer idea of which car they want even before they visit a dealer.

Even the unique new-car smell.

Ford is exploring a range of virtual- and augmented-reality technology that will layer digital holograms on the real world that could, within a decade, mean people interacting with every aspect of a products – but at their convenience.

Nowak explained: “A customer could identify a model in which they are interested – colour, the exact interior – and when and where they would like to do so.

“There’s no limit to the depth of detail.”

THREE-MINUTE DECISION

Ford’s designers already use VR extensively. A facility at its Cologne design studio allows them to experience a vehicle, quickly and efficiently, without a physical prototype.

For the 2017 Ford Fiesta they experienced and confirmed the location of vehicle controls, facia layout and seating.

READ MORE Ford features on Carman’s Corner

Amko Leenarts, Ford’s head of global interior design operations, told The Corner: “People decide within three minutes whether they love a product – and that includes a car.

“From the moment the get in connections are formed with the smell, the feel of surfaces, even the sound of the closing car door.”

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