Nian Tjoe says: No difference…
Mercedes-Benz’s sole agent, Cycle & Carriage, spent $43m to build their flagship facility along Alexandra Road. BMW’s big shop just beside it is said to have cost Performance Motors $60m to put up. Playing catch-up, Audi is working on its brand centre, which will cost an estimated $40m. Vantage Automotive forked out $45m to house its Ford, Peugeot and Land Rover franchises under one roof (although it has since relinquished the agency for LR from March this year).
It’s hardly small change for these “3S” car dealerships, and I’d imagine that “Sales”, i.e. the showroom, takes up disproportionately more of the outlay than “Service” and “Spare parts”.
Apparently, the solidity of the architecture and the grandness of the decor convince customers that the cars within will bear similar qualities. At the very least, these attributes assure consumers that the company isn’t some dodgy, fly-by-night operation.
The free-of-charge coffee, pastry and (everybody’s favourite) complimentary parking make such showrooms great for milling around in, but these are distractions.
Let’s not pretend that the swanky set-up is intended for anything other than encouraging you to empty your wallet in a big way. If that’s the case, I much prefer to know that I’m getting the best set of wheels that my money can buy.
So wouldn’t it be (even) better if the car companies had cut back a little on the shop dressing and passed the savings to their customers in the form of lower sticker prices?
Admittedly, Audi’s projected $40m for its new HQ isn’t a huge figure considering that the firm spent nearly a quarter of that amount on advertising in a single year. Last I checked, buildings last a whole lot longer than 12 months.
Perhaps the business has come to the point of needing such elaborate set-ups to keep up with the Joneses (or at least appearances of their rivals). But how about investing some of the money on the staff instead?
A pretty thing, impeccably dressed and ever-ready with an SQ smile, is no bad thing, but it’d be even better if she is also a total expert on the products being purveyed.
Not that car sales consultants, or whatever they are called these days, are incapable. It’s just that professional service necessitates constant training and regular upgrades, and I’d much prefer that the motor firm in question is investing in the human resource to help me solve my “need” for a new car in the best way possible. This is a whole lot more palatable than my paying indirectly for the refills in the showroom’s Nespresso machine.
Also, how about tipping the kitty for the back-end? Maybe if a greater portion of the dealer’s spending and space were allocated to more work bays and technicians, cars can be serviced (even) more quickly.
After all, when you finally sign on the dotted line, your after-sales experience will be much more significant than how the courteous auntie at the cafe knows how you like your cappuccino.
David Ting says: Got difference…
I don’t need the auntie at the cafe to know my favourite brew, but the car showroom must have a nice nook for me to enjoy my cappuccino.
The “in-house” coffee reflects on the dealership and the deals on wheels it’s trying to sell. In the Borneo Motors complex, for example, the coffee machine on the Toyota side is a simple device that dispenses quickly into flimsy styrofoam cups, whereas the one on the more prestigious Lexus side is some exotic coffee maker imported from Italy that takes a full minute to create the fantastic fluid which goes into a solid ceramic cup.
As I sip the sweet latte, its sweetness somehow makes the shiny sheet metal on display look a little shinier.
The bright spotlights help, of course, which leads me to my next point: The showroom proper can make or break the deal.
If I were shopping for a new Rolex, I would expect the boutique that I patronise to be bright, beautiful and climate-controlled to perfection. The same requirement applies to the car dealership vying for my business. After all, new cars, even relatively cheap models, are luxury goods like Rolexes and their points of sale should be equally luxurious.
Purchase the proverbial “cheap Rolex” over a nameless counter in a joyless shopping centre and it could be a replica from China. Speaking of which, have you ever stepped inside a Chinese car showroom in Singapore? It’s like the Budget Terminal, but with communist vibes.
Capitalists know the commercial value of Corporate Image, which is why they spend millions erecting monolithic structures in which to market their wares. It’s like fashion retail, but on a much larger scale and with plenty of engines.
Guys who “happily” accompany their better halves on retail therapy sessions should know what I mean. Mannequins in the trendiest threads are parked right in front of the store, whose wide and welcoming entrance leads immediately to neat rows of merchandise, interspersed with full-length mirrors and interposed by helpful assistants whose helpfulness is commensurate with their commissions. Psychedelic music keeps the shoppers in the mood to shop till they drop.
Car showrooms are generally quieter, of course, and what muzak they do play is usually drowned out by the myriad safety/quality/desirability messages from the strategically placed LCD screens. Even the furniture and architecture are part of the dealer’s (and sometimes also the principal’s) strategy to shift his cars and satisfy his customers, both existing and potential.
As for the personnel on the premises doing the actual wheeling and dealing, the pretty ones add to the attractive ambience while the unpretty ones are camouflaged by the designer decor. Either way, the swanky showroom is of central importance in the car buying experience – along with the coffee, of course.