Cadillac to convert dealerships to virtual reality centres
From listening to how the doors slam to getting behind the wheel and taking their chosen vehicle for a test drive, visiting showrooms has always been an important part of buying a new car.
But Cadillac, General Motor's luxury division in the US, is to dispense with cars entirely in its showrooms by instead offering customers virtual reality headsets to test out their vehicles.
The 'virtual showrooms' will allow customers to configure their car to how they would like it to look both internally and externally before being able to walk around it.
Cadillac have not said, however, whether customers will be able to actually get behind the wheel of their chosen automobile to take them on a virtual test drive.
The move is aimed at helping the brand compete in an increasingly competitive market as it has been suffering a difficult time against other luxury brands like BMW, Lexus and Audi.
It hopes that by adopting cutting edge technology in its showrooms, it will remove the need to maintain a stock of vehicles and instead produce cars to customers' requirements.
The company also plans to move its virtual showrooms into locations that are move convenient for shoppers rather than having traditional out of town car lots.
Announcing the 'virtual showrooms', Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac President, said shoppers would be able to quickly configure and envision multiple models with different colours and interior choices.
He said: 'Our recently announced $12 billion investment in product must be accompanied by corresponding upgrades to the customer experience.
'For all dealers, including multi-brand outlets, we should strive to create a premium showroom atmosphere and the sophisticated brand experience that luxury consumers expect.'
The company is expected to convert the smallest of its 925 dealerships into virtual showrooms.
Many of these currently operate in conjunction with showrooms selling other GM vehicles.
Cadillac expects around 400 small dealerships to move to its virtual showroom model, where they will no longer have cars that can be driven away by customers on the day.
Instead customers will be use touch screen computers and VR headsets to learn about the vehicles and a small number of test drive cars will be available for them to take for a spin.
Many believe other manufacturers could also turn to virtual reality to help them sell more of their vehicles and could ultimately see the idea of car lots being killed off altogether.
The move has received a mixed welcome from Cadillac dealers, but it could also help to reduce their overheads.
Will Churchill, owner of Frank Kent Cadillac in Fort Worth, Texas and head of Cadillac's dealer council, told the Wall Street Journal: 'They don't have to stock the 15 cars and hope that they have the right one. The data shows they probably don't.'