MISSISSAUGA, ONT. — Nissan Canada will begin a virtual-reality pilot program at 10 of its dealerships, with the idea of helping customers understand the high-tech features under the skin of the company’s vehicles.
Nissan Canada President Joni Paiva said the dealers would receive VR headsets that would allow customers to see how features such as automatic emergency braking and rear cross-traffic alerts work. It was not clear which dealerships would be part of the program.
“I think [dealers] are going to be excited to work with them, to figure out how we convey value to customers,” Paiva said during an interview at the automaker’s headquarters here.
“I understand that sometimes technology can be complicated, but it’s also our job to make it intuitive.”
The pilot program comes as Nissan and other automakers figure out how to make the in-store shopping process more appealing to consumers in the age of online retail, and as automakers and dealers put a larger emphasis on explaining to drivers how new in-vehicle technologies work.
Nissan Canada is betting on technology to show technology during the sales process. The NCar mobile app, for instance, can be used at the dealership to play videos explaining how different technologies work or to receive tips.
Nissan Canada’s VR headsets are made by U.S.-based Oculus, with software provided by digital design company Critical Mass of Calgary. Nissan has worked with Critical Mass in the United States, where it developed the Nissan Die Hard Fan app to tie in with the automaker’s college sports advertising and for a Star Wars-themed VR program at dealerships that it designed to showcase safety features on the Nissan Rogue.
Paiva said the VR program could help make different features more tangible for consumers who might not be aware of what different safety features do, and could make the in-store buying experience more attractive for consumers who are spending more time shopping online.
“We need to embed these technologies in the process of sales,” he said.
Implementing new technologies, such as VR, could reap dividends for the Canadian dealer network, he said, and that Nissan Canada would work with dealers to ensure a smooth transition.
“Any change requires effort,” he said. “If you have an established process in your store and all of a sudden we’re saying, ‘Here’s a new tool or a tablet, use it,’ it’s going to be very difficult. But if you work with the dealers [and ask] how do we implement this technology to support and help make the process of buying more convenient for our customer, then you get the buy-in, and it works.”