Virtual Reality showrooms will change how we shop for cars

July 24, 2017

I felt ridiculous as the bulky headset slipped onto my head. It was something that felt right out of a 1980s movie about the future.

A controller was placed in my hand and I was given one simple instruction: Point where you want to go, click, and you'll be there.

I opened my eyes and was instantly in a Virtual Reality world. There was a blue Cadillac XT5 sitting what seemed like a few hundred yards in front of me.

Spinning my body around I could see wood floors under my theoretical body, and I was inside a "room" like nothing I've ever seen before. It was modern, bright, and futuristic, with large windows letting lots of "natural" light in to show off the vehicle's lines.

No, this wasn't some dream or movie I saw. I was getting a glimpse into the future of car buying in a prototype version of Cadillac's Virtual Reality showroom.

The Virtual Reality shift

Once looked at as something straight out of "The Matrix," Virtual Reality is starting to become part of our every day lives, and it's going to change the way we shop for cars.

Automakers are investing in Virtual Reality technology to prepare for a shift in how consumers research their next vehicle.

The ability to virtually sit inside a car, walk around its exterior, and get an understanding of how large a vehicle is will soon come to your local showroom and even your living room.

More than ever, today's consumers can arm themselves with information thanks to the Internet.

With the research complete, buyers can now walk into a dealership to simply see a vehicle in the metal, confirm the experience, and then conduct the final transaction.

But that's today, and tomorrow is coming.

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Automotive customers want more, and they want to do it on their time, on their terms, Skip D'Amico, Cadillac's global manager of digital innovation, told The Car Connection.

Automakers are investing today in the future shopping and buying experience. There will be a shift as Virtual Reality technology and hardware become more readily available.

Michael LaLande, director of Americas transportation and mobility at Dassault Systèmes, one of the companies developing the Virtual Reality systems for automakers, said, "The automotive buying experience is continuing to evolve, and VR will play a role in this. Consumers are looking for, and want, a way to touch and experience these cars outside of a showroom.”

In addition to Cadillac, Audi, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and other automakers are working on Virtual Reality technology to aid the buying experience. 

“If you want to be in the game when VR really takes off, especially in the home, you have to be creating and developing it now," said D'Amico. "All of this will be the groundwork of things to come."

Just because everyone's working on Virtual Reality doesn't mean each automaker's experience will be the same.

There's no rule book for Virtual Reality experiences, or expectations that must be met. D'Amico told us: "It's virgin territory. Everyone's learning on the fly as we go, which is what makes it so exciting."

Think of this as the wild west of the tech sector, but with fewer saloons being shot up.

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