Chevy introduces virtual shopping experience for new vehicles
Detroit — The pandemic has pushed auto manufacturers and dealers to rethink how customers shop, affirming the importance of virtual platforms like General Motors Co.'s new Chevy MyWay live vehicle tour.
The platform, launched Wednesday in test mode, gives customers one-on-one access to live tours of the Chevrolet lineup with product specialists. It also can create a virtual auto show experience. Chevy expects to ramp up the platform's capabilities in the coming months to give customers access to product in the comfort of home.
But that doesn't mean the dealer isn't a part of the process. Nor does it mean Chevy is backing down on in-person auto shows and debuts, longstanding rites in the industry waylaid over the past year by the global coronavirus.
"The pandemic is gonna cause fundamental sea change but you know there's something very powerful about that visceral reaction to an actual physical property," Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet marketing, said Wednesday. "While we have done very unique things recently with Hummer and Lyric, and what you'll see from us from Chevrolet with EV and EUV will largely be rooted in digital applications, we certainly see a role for that physical experience and engagement with the vehicle."
With auto shows canceled and businesses closed because of the pandemic, GM and other automakers switched gears last year to virtual product debuts and saw increased use of online vehicle shopping platforms like GM's Shop-Click-Drive. Cadillac LIVE launched right before the pandemic, giving customers the opportunity to experience Cadillac products through live virtual tours — a handy tool for some dealers when in-person dealership sales were halted for a brief time.
"It was perfect timing," said Gavin Pierce, partner at John Elway Cadillac located near Denver.
"We had our team contact all of our guests and say: 'Hey, since we don't have the ability to have you come to the store, we'd like you to reach out to our team at Cadillac LIVE and they'll give you a great presentation of the vehicle.' And a lot of dealers didn't have the vehicle in stock anyway, so it's a really good way to get the guests engaged without them deferring or wanting to look at other brands."
Pierce says "most definitely" the platform helped the dealership make sales, though he maintains the people at the dealership are the "No. 1 asset."
Cadillac LIVE has seen consistent growth since launching in December 2019. During the pandemic, the average monthly Cadillac LIVE visits more than doubled their pre-pandemic levels from January and February, peaking in May with over 65,000 visits —2.5 times higher from the January-February monthly average. Since then Cadillac LIVE has seen between 58,000 to 60,0000 visits a month, the luxury brand said.
Carlos Mojica, senior manager of retail development for LaFontaine Auto Group with a Cadillac dealership in Highland, said it's difficult to say if the dealership received any leads or sales from Cadillac LIVE, but "having an outlet where people can experience the vehicle without the vehicle in front of them ... anytime that we can do that the customers feel more comfortable with the product. It's a unique way to get in front of guests."
LaFontaine also has a Chevrolet dealership in Dexter, which the auto group supports: "We're trying to build off of all these things that the OEMs are using but also make them unique to us ... we try to enhance and build on the tools that we are utilizing, but also customize them for our needs," said Max Muncey, senior manager of corporate communications for the auto group.
The live platforms could help GM showcase future electric products, officials say. GM wants to field 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade, and it plans to make 40% of its U.S. entries battery-electric vehicles by the end of 2025.
Chevrolet currently only offers the Bolt EV, but it will be launching the larger Bolt EUV this summer. Beyond those vehicles, Chevy will offer four new electric vehicles based off of GM's Ultium battery platform, including a pickup and a crossover/SUV. Large-format pouch style cells on the Ultium battery can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack, allowing designers to optimize battery storage and layout for each vehicle's design.
Chevrolet is expected to the Consumer Electronics Show. GM CEO Mary Barra is the keynote speaker on Jan. 12.
Chevy MyWay can be accessed at: www.chevrolet.com/myway.