Volvo's UK boss is optimistic that this could become the new norm.
Strolling into a pristine showroom and spending a solid hour discussing your options with an animated salesman has been the default car shopping experience for pretty much as long as the automobile has existed. After all, a car is not a new item of clothing that you can try on, put back into a box, and return for a full refund if you aren't happy. The physical showroom experience is essential, but Volvo UK's boss wants you to know that you can also order your swanky S90 online - if you choose to do so.
To mitigate the damaging effects on brick and mortar businesses and specifically its own dealerships, Volvo UK fast-tracked improvements to its 'click-and-collect' service, while Volvo Valet allows for contactless delivery/collection for customers booking their cars in for a repair of service. Other manufacturers like Cadillac also took steps towards moving dealer services online.
"What we've done in terms of actions to tackle the coronavirus has essentially been two years' worth of digital development in just eight weeks," said Kristian Elvefors in an Autocar report on the topic. "We've learned so much working digitally which is going to be game-changing." Despite dealerships in England being allowed to open again this month, Elvefors thinks the move to a digital retail model is more important than ever.
"Even with dealerships opening, the social-distancing rules are likely to limit demand, and there are people, such as those on high-risk grounds, who will be unwilling or unable to visit. So we need to make sure we continue to help them." To help dealers manage this transition, Volvo has provided them with e-learning training videos and PPE guidance.
The question now is whether customers will embrace the expanded online services being offered by Volvo and other manufacturers. Ultimately, though, people still need to buy new cars or bring their existing vehicles in to be serviced, so it's almost impossible to avoid all interaction with dealers for an extended period of time. "We're confident customers will come back and there are many who will need a new car," said Elvefors, who also suggested that with many UK residents not being able to leave for a holiday, it may be beneficial for Volvo car sales over the summer season.
With many dealers only reopening now and production plants getting back on track after a dire Q2, automakers like Volvo and Lincoln will have to wait it out and see if their efforts are enough to see customers adjust to an all-new way of buying or servicing a new vehicle.