Car dealers are embracing new tech for “contactless” sales, quotes and finance. Many will maintain the new measures once the lockdown lifts.
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Hundreds of car dealers across Australia have rolled out “contactless” technology for sales, quotes and finance applications – in some cases connecting to customers via video demonstrations.

The initial take-up of the technology has been so successful many dealers contacted by CarAdvice say they will continue to offer the service even after the coronavirus lockdown periods are over.

All car dealerships and service centres across Australia are allowed to remain open as an “essential service”, however the number of sales enquiries have fallen in recent weeks as showroom traffic has slowed.

In response, many dealers have embraced new technology to demonstrate and sell cars via smartphone apps.

The technology, an example of which is marketed in Australia by a company called CitNOW, was originally introduced to send customers a short video of any faults found during routine servicing.

The technician could take a video of an oil leak or other underbody damage so the customer could see it was a genuine concern and ought to be considered for repair.

Now car dealers are using the same app to do vehicle handovers or send out responses to sales enquiries on new, demonstrators or used cars.

“The technology was created in the UK by a car dealer to deliver more transparency in the service side of the business,” said the distributor for CitNOW in Australia, John Elsworth, a former high ranking executive at Holden and Hyundai.

“It’s since been adapted to be used by both the sales and the service departments and many see it as a great way to build trust.”

The car dealerships like the technology because they can film a new car or demonstrator model during their downtime, and send a link to customers via text to view when it’s convenient for them, says Mr Elsworth.

“So you don’t have this phone-tag situation,” said Mr Elsworth. “The customer can view the video whenever they want to, and the dealer can create the video in their downtime or when they’re not busy serving another customer.”

Mr Elsworth said CitNOW’s records show some demonstration videos are viewed up to 10 times by some customers “either showing their friends or because they forgot how a particular gadget on their car operates”.

CitNOW has about 300 dealerships and service centres signed up across Australia – less than 10 per cent of the national network of 3500 showrooms – but has noticed an increase in business since the coronavirus lockdowns.

“We’ve definitely been busy,” said Mr Elsworth. “All our dealers have found us by word-of-mouth and each day we keep getting more enquiries.

“Many of them are telling us they will continue to use this technology even once the lockdowns are lifted,” he said. “It’s just so convenient for so many customers and it establishes trust. There it is on video. It’s a record of what was said to the customer about the car and the customer can view it as many times as they like.”