TORONTO — Online car shopping will not replace the in-dealership experience, a panel of industry executives said Thursday at the Automotive News Canada Congress.
“To me, the customer will always need to touch and feel the product, for sure, and you cannot do that through a screen or a tablet,” said Joni Paiva, Nissan Canada president, said. “The digital process won’t do that for you.
“You will be able to connect, shop, look, but you will still have to touch and feel the product. I really think we will still have dealers and will still have to display vehicles for customers to look, touch and test drive.”
Hyundai Canada CEO Don Romano said cars are becoming extremely complex, which is changing the way dealers talk with customers.
“The integration between our digital world and automobiles are converging very quickly,” he said. “We need to spend far more time in the delivery process in customizing. You’re fitting a car like Harry Rosen fits a suit. You’ve got to make sure (the customers understand) all the safety applications and all the electronics are set up and what used to take half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, can take two to three hours. Customers want one more thing from us and that’s speed and efficiency, transparency. They are not mutually exclusive.
“We have to figure out where are we going to cut time out, and that time has got to be cut out from the transactional side. We’re going to have use technology to make it easier, more transparent, more flexible.
“But I’m with Joni. The customers are still going to go out and touch, feel, taste the car. They want to feel it, they want to test drive it. They are going to want to know that there is somebody in their community that is going to take care of them if something breaks down with that big investment.”
Jaguar Land Rover Canada President Wolfgang Hoffmann said he is old-fashioned when it comes to the appeal of a car dealership.
“I like to do a lot online in other aspects of my life, but on the car side I still believe we will have a great future for the car dealerships for the human interaction and actually seeing it, feeling it and (test) driving it,” Hoffmann said. “And afterward if you have questions I think it’s more engaging to talk to a human being than a fake person in a chat or a robot.”