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A while ago a well-known car manufacturer launched an advertising campaign which grabbed my attention. If the rest of the brand experience would have been as engaging as the campaign I would now have owned a new car. Alas I don't and in this post I’ll explain why that is. 

My first encounter after seeing the advertising campaign was with the dealership. I sent an email requesting a test drive for a couple of hours as I wanted the whole family to be part of the decision. I also specifically stated that I wanted to test the new generation infotainment system and navigation as well as automatic gearbox.

The next day I got a reply from the dealership saying they were quite busy at the moment and that it was impossible for them to allow test drives for more than one hour and then only during specific times.

Now I should explain that I have three kids and a busy work schedule, so obviously it's not only the dealership that is busy, I am too. Also there was no confirmation that the car had navigation, automatic gearbox etc. Although I wasn't happy with the limited amount of time offered, I was still willing to give it a shot. I requested a test drive on the following Saturday and asked what the featured optional packages on the car were.

I got the answer that this wasn’t really optimal for them and they suggested that I instead pick up the car on 5PM Friday and return it the next morning. I also found out that the car had a manual gear box and not automatic as I had requested.

Picking up the car a Friday at 5PM isn't ideal since the dealership is located "in the middle of nowhere" in an industrial area with poor public transport options. You don't want to park your current car outside the dealership overnight, but since it would give me and the family more time I was willing to go through the extra hassle of paying for parking at work and taking the car to the dealership. So I answered saying it would be great and asked whether the car had navigation or not, since that question was never answered.

Answer: Can you pick up the car at 16:00? Yes, it has navigation.

Ok, so now it's starting to be a little bit annoying...but alright, since I really wanted to drive the car I said ok.

On the Friday I left work early, took our current car and arrived at the dealership at 3:55PM happy and ready to pick up the test vehicle. I noticed the sales person I had exchanged emailed with was with other customers so I relaxed for a bit and waited. After about 10 minutes we got a bit of eye contact so the guy knows I'm in the house. 5 or 10 minutes later the guy walks into his personal cubicle and picks up the phone! I thought, "Wow that call has to be really important" and waited for a few more minutes. After another 10 minutes it is now close to 4:30PM and I was expressly asked to be there at 4PM. I am quite annoyed at this point and talk to a woman in the reception to whom I explain that they really have to work on their customer experience. She is kind enough to supply me with the keys to the car. At that moment the sales guy walks up to me and half-heartedly wishes me good luck.

I get into the car and start fiddling with the infotainment system and the navigation, excited to see how everything works after having spent a couple of hours online researching every aspect of it on mostly YouTube and various forums. The first thing that happens when trying the navigation is an error message saying "Content is missing, please contact your dealer". The second message is "This application needs a valid GPS position - current position unknown". Brilliant, am I now really excited to spend 2000 euros on navigation and upgraded infotainment system, or am I not? I was not impressed.

When handing the car back I told the dealership that the car should receive a serious software upgrade. The answer was that the system in the car did not work because it was being discarded for 2014 and was replaced by a newer version! Wonderful! Since I had specifically asked (multiple times!) to be able to test these features....

To sum up, the experience trying to book the test drive was followed up with an equally frustrating experience with the car itself, and finally completed by being given the wrong information by the dealer. All of these are things that the dealership should quite easily have done differently in 2014:

1. Let me book a time online to test drive. We have been able to book rental cars since ages, why not test drives? That can even be used as a marketing tool; long wait to test drive = popular car, yet you never annoy your prospects by having them come to the dealership first and finding there is nothing to drive. Retailers have found this out long ago so many display items in stock per store on their .com/.xx's.

2. Let me pay for an expert to come with the car and show me everything about it. Let me do this as I book my test drive online, and make sure it's an expert. I would gladly pay for the service. Sales people who know less about the car than I do is not for me, and if you ask the consumer "generation online" they tend to agree.

3. Don't make me come to the dealership to test drive the car. Have the car come to my location to save me the hassle and the time. The number one thing we as consumers have a problem with is piecing our schedules together (advertising is not solving the problem for us). If you don't believe me then maybe the study Cars Online 2014 by CapGemini will convince you? One of the major takings is that in order to enable online purchases, there is a need to give the consumer the “ability to test drive a vehicle at the location of my choice”.

The role of the dealership and the way cars are sold will change. The fact that we still have it this way is not down to the consumer, it's down to the automotive industry.

If you'd like to know more about Zooma's view on how trends in online behaviour are likely to change your industry, don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

Stellan Björnesjö

Online Strategist
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