Choose the base, select your veggies and toppings, add to cart, that’s how car buying experience is going to be.
No matter how optimistic you are, this pandemic will change our lives and the way we deal with stuff we usually took for granted. A car/bike buying experience is something which you remember for lifetime. It is something that brings joy, that your family celebrates, it is an occasion etched in your heart. All of this is going to change very soon, it already has.
Now social distancing is becoming the new norm. Yes, the lockdown will be lifted eventually but still people will hesitate moving out of their homes for a long time to come and contactless operations will be the new standard.
Automobile manufacturers have already started digitising the selling process amid lockdown. Mercedes, BMW, Skoda, VW, Tata Motors, Hyundai, Honda, you name it, all of them have started online bookings. Even two-wheeler brands, they have been accepting bookings online since a long time.
Skoda recently opened online bookings of the Octavia RS 245 and within a few days, all 200 units were sold out from their website. Royal Enfield had quite a few flash sales online! Imagine, bikes worth Rs. 2-3 lakhs getting sold out within seconds. Well, that’s about the bookings and it’s still fine.
What’s worrisome is the fact that your car will be delivered at your doorstep. No more excitement of taking your family along, waiting for the paperwork to get done and finally unveiling your dream machine with a mesmerised look on your face. Even before you book your car, the physical touch and experience at the dealership is something you enjoy. Nowadays you just get virtual 3D tour online of the exterior and interior. You configure the car from the options provided and it’s just like a pizza that you add to the cart.
Even the test drives will be limited to some extent. For instance, again, the Octavia RS 245 won’t have any test drive cars. Online bookings done and now the dealerships will commence deliveries. Maximum you can do is see what the experts have to say in video reviews and text reviews to have an idea about the car/bike. That’s a pretty grim picture, isn’t it? Next thing you know is you are seeing your car location on the app just like Swiggy, Zomato delivery, your doorbell rings and there’s your new car. This could actually happen though, with the new connected car tech linked to your smartphone.
If you’re wondering how car financing paperwork will be managed, it’ll be all digitised, like it already has started. Most of the big banks nowadays have pre-approved loan on offer. If you already have a good credit score and you’ve taken a loan in the past, the approval of new loan happens immediately. Even if you’re applying for the first time, everything will be done online with OTPs and other necessary secure procedures.
Since we’re talking about car buying experience, let me share a few here, both good and bad. Let’s start with the bad one. So it was December 2013, Honda held the media drive of the 4th gen City. Faisal went for the drive and called me from there with next level excitement “Dude this car flies, it revs like crazy and the i-VTEC is a pure gem”. That time we had the Hyundai Verna (Fluidic) and were quite disappointed with the bouncy suspension and were considering another sedan. The new City launched in January 2014, I got to drive it and was thoroughly impressed. You can also read a comparison I did with Vento and my Verna HERE. I waited for the first batch to clear to see if there are any issues since we had a bad experience getting Verna soon after its launch.
Eventually the waiting was 3-6 months long. In October 2014, my dealer said it can be allotted anytime, you need to take the delivery as soon as it comes. Now I regret doing this but the day we got the delivery of our City, I had committed for a drive event at a plant in Chennai. All that prolonged excitement went down the drain. I was driving a super flop hatch (can’t take names) that hardly sells 200-300 units a month and I had a terribly delayed flight back home. I still remember that day, it was bad!
Fast forward to exactly 5 years, in October 2019, I had the best experience of my life. Took the delivery of my first car and my childhood dream car, the Tata Safari Storme. For every query that my dealer had before the delivery, I told him I’ll come and discuss. I just wanted a reason to go to the dealership. I went to see the car the day it arrived from the stockyard. I went another day for the PDI (pre-delivery inspection). Then finally for the delivery, I went early and witnessed one of the best moments of my life. You can read a part of that experience HERE.
With this digitised process of buying a new vehicle, a huge part of emotional connect and excitement will be gone. What do you think about this situation? Also, share your car/bike buying experiences in the comments section. It will be interesting to read different stories of your dealership escapades.