Is online shopping the future of car purchases?

From a complete online process for a car’s purchase to doorstep delivery, carmakers are coming up with ways to resume sales while adhering to social distancing norms

e4m by Sanstuti Nath
Updated: May 22, 2020 9:00 AM

COVID-19 has brought the Indian automobile industry to a standstill with almost zero sales in the month of April. The pandemic and the lockdown have completely derailed the car manufacturing business.

Zac Hollis - Director, Sales and Marketing - SKODA India, recently took to Twitter to express his dismay.

However, brands are now resuming production albeit keeping the pace slow along with reopening their dealership in some parts of the country.

According to reports, dealers of several brands have started functioning this month, mainly in Karnataka, Goa, Orissa and the North-east. Maruti Suzuki, the market leader, has reopened around 600 dealerships, while Hyundai has commenced operations in 150 showrooms and 200 service centers. Tata Motors is also beginning operations in nearly 200 dealerships and 300 workshops for passenger vehicles and over 400 sales outlets and 885 workshops for commercial vehicles.

Both Tata Motors and Hyundai Motor India Ltd have reopened some of their production units as well.

Guenter Butschek, CEO & MD, Tata Motors has said, “Our utmost priority is the safety and wellbeing of our employees, customers and ecosystem partners. Therefore, we restart operations with limited, essential staff in each plant, adhering to all mandated safety norms while efficiently meeting operational requirements. The support and cooperation extended by local authorities, state and central Government, our Union partners and our dedicated workforce have been instrumental for a smooth restart. We will scale operations in a graded manner as the entire enabling ecosystem of suppliers, vendors, dealers and customers comes up to speed. We are cautiously optimistic and staying agile to cater to an evolving demand.”

But can the industry make a complete comeback with social distancing now a reality?

In a bid to bounce back, most automobile brands from Audi to Tata have digitised their sales operations and have come up with online booking and payment options.

Leading the way, Hyundai Motor India Ltd has introduced a 'Click to buy' campaign where a consumer could complete the whole process of buying a car, from selecting a model to applying for a loan and paying the amount, online. Buyers can also request for doorstep delivery of the vehicle.

Talking about the campaign, Ravi Sharma, Sales Team Leader, Hyundai Motor India Ltd, said, “We are the pioneers in implementing India’s first end-to-end car-buying platform. Click-to-Buy offers our customers a smart and easier way to buy their favourite Hyundai from the comfort of their home. We actively started promoting Click-to-Buy from the start of the lockdown for those customers who wished to utilize this time to research and decide on their next purchase. We are delighted to share that the response to our service has been commendable and this showcases the positive consumer sentiment in the market. This has provided us with a lot of confidence in Indian consumers and we expect the market to rebound soon.”

Tata Motors has also launched a similar campaign called “Click to drive”. The latest brand to follow suit is Audi India. Audi went a step ahead in it digitization journey and incorporated Augmented Reality for the sale process with a 360° Product Visualizer option before making the online booking of the vehicle.

Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head of Audi India, said, “Digital customer-centric initiatives are a key focus area for Audi in India. We have been at the forefront of enabling and introducing future technologies for our customers – including Augmented and Virtual Reality elements. Taking this digitalization strategy a step forward, we are pleased to announce digital sales for our product portfolio and after-sales support for our existing and future customers. While our belief in a digital future is already profound, the advent of Covid-19 has only made it stronger as to how we interact with our customers going forward. With the initiatives announced today, we are taking digital experiences to the living rooms of our customers and offering them the flexibility to purchase their preferred Audi of choice and even book their next service appointment online.”

According to media reports, there has been an increase in searches for buying cars as the post-COVID consumer will be apprehensive of crowded spaces and public transport. Hopefully, this will prove to be a revival for the Indian automobile industry.

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