Virtual test drives could turn your waiting service customers into new car buyers

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It’s no secret that virtual reality is gaining traction across many industries as adoption rates continue to grow. And a quick tour of just a handful of auto shows in North America this past year demonstrates just how much automotive is starting to play in that space.

A relatively new company out of Atlanta, GA., is looking to help harness this trend for dealerships with a system they say is designed to help build your online reputation, spread brand awareness and safely demonstrate the bevy of technology features found on most new vehicles today.

Called FlowFound, the company is offering a complete VR solution that offers original test drives shown through one of two custom kiosks or online.

“These virtual reality test drives demonstrate things like vehicle safety, performance and features, particularly the ones you wouldn’t normally demonstrate on a typical test drive,” explained Nick Cybela, CEO of FlowFound.

“We believe in showing local places and faces. By that, I mean using your dealership staff and local landmarks.”

Cybela said the process is simple. Using a special rig and camera system that records 360-degree, high-definition video, the team will set out on a test drive with one of your store’s sales associates. Dealers can decide on the route and what vehicle features are going to be showcased.

The digital wizards then do their thing and produce a brief test drive video custom to your community and the vehicles on your lot.

There are three different options to display the footage. First is on the dealership website. Visitors can use a smartphone to view the content with the 360-degree feel. The other two options come in the form of custom-built kiosks.

The less expensive model is starts at US$1,995 a month and is similar in size and shape to an ATM machine. The virtual test drive is shown on a screen mounted at the top of the unit. A screen shows dealership and inventory content that customers can use via a built-in keyboard.

The more expensive model starts at US$2,495 and looks like a large open phone booth. It is outfitted with a set of VR goggles and lets the customer sit down inside while being immersed in the virtual world. A screen broadcasts what the user is looking at so people can see what they see.

When asked why a dealership wouldn’t simply offer a test drive in the real thing, Cybela stressed this isn’t a solution for the sales floor.

“We are putting this technology in service departments,” he explained.

“People aren’t excited about getting a tire repaired or an oil change, but it gives them an opportunity to try some other vehicles while they are waiting.”
He said their solution came to market a few months ago and already has over a dozen clients in the U.S. using the technology. He also reported two OEMs have expressed “high interest” in the idea.