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In a few weeks, we’ll hopefully head towards normalcy. But the post-pandemic future will change a lot of things, especially in the automotive world.

The complete experience of buying a new car is set to undergo a massive transformation. We have to wait and see if consumers walk into car showrooms for physical enquires and test drives. Oversized keys and glitzy ceremonies will now become a thing of a distant past. The new world will probably have a completely sanitised approach.

Sanitise My Ride
Major car manufacturers have already announced various initiatives to provide the safest way to service and buy new cars. The list includes mass market players to high-end brands, right from Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Tata Motors, FCA India to Mercedes-Benz India, BMW India Ford India and Volvo Auto India. Dealerships have been asked to implement stringent hygiene and sanitization for the safety of the customers and staff. But more interestingly, every car brand has worked out a comprehensive Convid-19 SoP (Standard Operating Procedure) which have to be followed right from the time a customer walks into the showroom, till the final delivery of the vehicle.

Virtual World
Before visiting a car showroom to inspect, buy or service a car, most brands are now encouraging you to go online. India’s leading car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki is requesting customers to digitally explore their car line-up and even personalize their shortlisted cars with accessories, according to preference. In fact, all the documents needed for buying a vehicle can be submitted online, to make the experience contact-free. Hyundai Motor India have started remote car demonstrations through online video conferencing, where the Sales Consultants take you through the car’s features.

Click to Buy
If you’ve already decided or for those who are repeat buyers, most of the car brands have updated their websites enabling you to shop for cars, as they say, from the comfort of your home. Click to pay and your favourite car model is delivered at your doorsteps. Couldn’t be simpler.
Customers, on the other hand, expect OEM websites to have multiple solutions, including virtual showrooms, hassle-free buying process and even interactive solution like a chatbot. It’s a simple and personalized feature which nudges the consumers to make up their minds quickly.

Announce Your Arrival
Once you’ve digitally scrutinised and selected the car of your choice already, avoid the temptation to walk into a showroom without prior appointment. Customer is king. Your arrival to the showroom has to be announced before you make an appearance. You can book an appointment on the official website, which will guide you to the nearest showroom. Tata Motors dealerships have started to collect all information from the clients before their visit. They prefer explaining the basic buying nitty-gritty beforehand to reduce the hassle of re-visits.

Masks Are Welcome
Everyone, be it the staff or customer, won’t be allowed entry without a mask. More importantly, IR thermometer will be used to screen the body temperature and only those with normal body temperature will be allowed in. Ford India have re-organised the dealership floor plan to ensure appropriate social distancing and all Ford dealer personnel will don face masks and gloves at all times. Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor India have distributed about 6.8 lakh masks, 20,000 half-litre and 1.5 lakh 100 ml cases of sanitizers across their dealerships. The message is clear – OEMs are ensuring a hygienic and sanitized high touch touchpoints, to assure a completely safe car buying experience.

Test-drive, really?
Yes, you will get to test drive the car, but only if you insist. In fact, doorstep service offering test drives will be in high demand. Following the Convid-19 SoP, just one person will be allowed to take the test drive, while the relationship manager explains the features and answers your queries from the back seat. Obviously, since you would’ve ‘announced your arrival’ already, the test vehicle would be completely sterilised beforehand to avoid any infection. In fact, brands like Volvo Auto India have partnered with cleaning experts like 3M to disinfect all demonstration and test drive cars, to make them free of contamination. (Also Read: Droom Jumpstart Car Service Launched)

The Wait
Once you’ve made up your mind, and after the existing stock is lapped-up, you might have to wait a bit for delivery. With the huge losses incurred by car dealerships during the lockdown, many of them will be relying on something called Just-in-Time (JIT) solution. This relatively new concept essentially means that once the order is received, the firm will then call for the particular car/s to be sent to them by the OEM. This way, the dealership aims to reduce its overheads like interest, stockyard rental, security and even insurance. A great solution for dire times like this.

From Paper to PDFs
To reduce the chance of infection, showrooms are avoiding handing out physical quotations and brochures. OEMs are encouraging the staff to mail these documents to their customers to reduce the number of trips to the dealerships. Some showrooms have even installed document drop-boxes for insurance and registration papers, for a more contact-free experience. The new SoP ensures that all the paper-work is completed in advance so you and your family spend as little time as possible at the dealership when you become a proud owner of that new car.

No-Frill Delivery
Think about a new car delivery, and images of the entire family and loved ones gathering at the dealerships come to mind. The usual prop of gigantic cut-out representing the car’s key, ribbons and confetti, and sometimes even a quick puja ceremony. Things that might not exist in the post-coronavirus world. Austerity is key, and don’t expect any grand ceremony while taking possession of a new car. If you don’t opt for home delivery, then you’re welcome at the showroom but with limited family members. OEMs have also advised dealership to avoid mass-delivery during the festive season or on certain auspicious days.

In the last couple of months, we have become more aware of social distancing, which in turn will encourage the use of personal vehicles. A sizeable population currently with WFH options are contemplating buying a car post the lockdown right now. Hopefully, if the sentiments are upbeat, the showroom cash registers should start ringing again pretty soon.

(Also Read: Car Sales After Lockdown May Surge)


About the author: Sarmad Kadiri



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