Last year, Seat sought to empower showroom customers with technology, with the launch of a Blippar app. By pointing the camera of a tablet or smartphone at special markers placed on vehicles, showroom visitors have been able to overlay images, video and text on the device’s screen to garner more information.
Dealerships aren’t just utilising technology to make showrooms more enticing for potential customers. For the majority, the car itself is still king, with an increasing focus on aftersales services. Jones Architecture & Design has designed an array of properties for the automotive industry, such as the new Fiat Brand Centre in Swindon, which opened last year.
Managing director Wayne Jones said: “We are currently seeing a trend towards drive-in service lanes, where customers drive in to the building and are greeted by the service team. They can discuss the car within this area and the car is then parked or taken straight through to the workshops. We are also seeing more personal touches like parent/child spaces as you would see in a supermarket.”
Some car brands 'moving to offer a living-room feel'
Many manufacturers appear keen to create a more ‘homely’ atmosphere in dealerships, with brands such as Kia striving to offer a more welcoming showroom environment. Jones said: “With some brands there is a move to offer more of a living-room feel to entertain customers and keep them within the showroom for longer.”
Kristina Simpson, associate director at Automotive Property Consultancy, said the major manufacturers were increasingly seeking more exacting standards from dealerships.
“There has been a shift in focus towards the tighter regulation of manufacturer facility standards combined with the dealers’ desire to future-proof their premises,” she said.
“Those manufacturers with significant new model growth plans, such as BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Nissan and Kia, are all more active in seeking the implementation of these standards than two years ago.
“This means dealers are having to accommodate revised manufacturer standards, leading to either reconfiguration and refurbishment of existing dealerships, or developing new sites. An example is the proposed new state-of-the-art Nissan dealership at the Cribbs Causeway site in Bristol.” It will be operated by Wessex Garages from 2015.