Virtual Reality Brings Your Showroom Floor to the Customer’s Living Room

Customers can build and configure their chosen vehicle, then view it prior to stepping foot in your dealership

Virtual reality (VR) is going to be a game-changer in the automotive space in 2016. For automotive industry professionals, it was hard not to notice an explosion of VR news coming from auto shows, manufacturer engineering plants, and dealerships in 2015.

And although the technology is in its infancy, there are countless ways virtual reality is already being used to design, market, and sell vehicles. Here are a few:

  • Considered the front-runner in the automotive VR field, the Ford Motor Company has been experimenting with virtual reality for the past several years. The company was one of the first to use the Oculus Rift VR headset technology as a part of its engineering process to create and evaluate vehicles in a virtual setting. Ford engineers wearing virtual headgear can explore the nuts and bolts of their designs in a lifelike setting before their vehicle plans hit the manufacturing plant.
  • This past January, Audi rolled out its Virtual Reality Experience, or what executives are calling “the most flexible sales format ever invented in the car industry.” Shoppers use wearable technology to enter a VR showroom and virtually build their favorite Audi configuration. Once their dream Audi is built, shoppers can look at it inside and out to determine if the vehicle is the right fit for their needs.
  • Not to be outdone, Volvo created a virtual test drive with the Google Cardboard VR viewer. With it, drivers were able to experience the new XC90 SUV before it even hit showrooms.

While all of these examples bring the wow factor when it comes to building and experiencing cars virtually, other companies are already using VR—or similar technology—to sell vehicles and educate consumers:

  • Ferrari is using augmented reality to help consumers create the perfect vehicle for their needs. Its dealers, armed with VR-powered tablets, help buyers select a current Ferrari model and then use the application to swap everything from the vehicle color to wheels to interior options. The result is an endless variety of virtual configurations and colors, that allows buyers to see what their custom-ordered car will look like before it’s built.
  • In what is perhaps the perfect VR experience, teenage drivers at this year’s New York Auto Show saw just how dangerous it can be when a driver is distracted, thanks to the Toyota Motor Company. Using Toyota’s Distracted Driver Simulator, teens put on a virtual reality headset and tried to stay focused on the road as low-flying birds, loud fellow passengers, and other common distractions tried to divert their focus from the road.

Although these examples are in the early stages—and the majority of uses are currently housed within the confines of manufacturers—auto dealers should expect to see other uses of VR trickle down to dealerships toward the latter half of this year.

Imagine the advantages of using VR to help your shoppers build, configure, and even color the vehicle they want, then view it prior to stepping foot in your showroom. Your transaction times would decrease and your customer satisfaction would soar.

Tools enhanced with computer graphics will help whittle down the time a buyer spends at a dealership by arming them with the exact information they need after reviewing available options online. The result? When buyers walks into your dealership, it will be to test drive the exact vehicle they are looking for, then finalize the sale.

Although we haven’t begun to explore all of the ways virtual reality will help the automotive industry in the years to come, the technology and tools needed to put it to use are available today. And one thing about VR is becoming abundantly clear: It has the ability to completely change the way we buy and sell cars.

Brian Wiklem is the director of izmostudio. He can be reached at

Brian Wiklem

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