Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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Buying a new car is a wonderful, heady, intoxicating experience for us all…until we get to the car showroom, and find a salesman making a hard sell, or being generally unwilling to offer you that solo test drive you so wanted, or following you around the showroom like a lost puppy eager for love.

To rephrase things a bit, that was the old normal. Welcome to the new normal, where things are a bit different. Dealers are now willing to embrace the tech changes they put off leveraging for so long, and are finally putting the consumer first, at the heart of the car buying process. And all it took to change the status quo was a pandemic.

Where they might have previously dragged their heels on changing with the times, automobile manufacturers and car dealers have now done a full 180° turn and have gone tech first in all domains, making this a wonderful time to buy a car as the customer truly becomes king.

As Zac Hollis – Brand Director, ŠKODA AUTO India told us, “No one had ever imagined or was prepared for the pandemic (COVID 19) that we are witnessing currently, it has unsettled and impacted everyone. Especially for the automobile industry which was struggling for over two years now, this has been a difficult period. We took this opportunity to be innovative and offer simply clever solutions, prepared for digital launches during the lockdown period and invested in digital sales platform to launch the buyŠKODAonline.com portal.”

People have begun shopping online for virtually everything, and the car buying experience has been no different. As social distancing became the norm, resistance to tech advances evaporated away, and a new buying experience has emerged. Prices are now negotiated online, you can take that solo test drive you so wanted (the salesmen or women will happily toss you the keys from a distance), and all talk of financing, negotiation, and insurance takes place digitally. This is a new dynamic that benefits everyone and puts the customer at the heart of the car buying experience.

Hard-sell no more

Gone are the days of the hard sell, with hours spent at the dealership. Human interaction has been cut to a bare minimum, which means extras aren’t pitched to you endlessly, and you don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to. You only buy what you want, at a price that is acceptable to you. This low-pressure atmosphere adds plenty to the charm of buying a car, as you might imagine.

Even the tricky process of valuating your car, which had to be done in person previously, has now gone digital. Services such as Das Welt Auto have intensified the focus on digitisation, allowing customers to sell and/or buy their preferred pre-owned vehicle digitally, in an accessible and transparent manner along with enabling customers to self-evaluate the value of their current vehicle through a handy app. This is quickly becoming the industry standard, adding to a frictionless experience.

Leisurely, solo test drives

Social distancing and safety measures mean that prospective buyers can finally that leisurely solo test drive without a salesman chattering away from the passenger seat. After all, they’ll be happy to (figuratively) shake hands on the deal, but shaking hands or getting in close proximity is a big no-no. In fact, at-home test drives have taken off in a big way as well, adding to the convenience and safety factor on offer.

Is this the new normal?

Perhaps. As a vaccine starts to emerge and a semblance of safety starts to re-enter our lives, it is likely that dealerships will fall back into the old routine, but it is fair to assume these new practices will firmly take root and become commonplace. Only time will tell, but the customer has never been king (or queen) more than they are today.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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