VW marries massages, movies & maintenance

For most people in the Western world, going to the dealership is like going to the dentist. The visit is considered a success as long as it is quick and painless. At Volkswagen dealerships in China the expectations are higher -- and the perks are much better.

VW sales boss Christian Klingler, during the Geneva auto show this week, talked about how Europe's largest automaker meets customer demands very differently at its 20,000 global dealerships.

In China, customers waiting for their cars are offered drinks and snacks. Depending on the dealership, they also can watch a movie in an on-site theater or get a massage.

That's pretty exceptional, especially for a Western customer who rates the dealership experience highly if the car comes back freshly vacuumed.

Klingler provided another example on how the sales experience is different in China. He said that when the customer takes ownership of the car there is a full-blown celebration in the dealership complete with loud and appreciative applauds from the staff.

Elsewhere, before the owner takes the keys in India, the car is blessed by a priest to assure luck and safety.

In Turkey, a customer is allowed inside the maintenance area to get a first-hand look at the work being done on the car. The customer is allowed to ask questions of the technician during the process.

In Japan, a VW Group salesperson goes to the customer's home to discuss which car would be best. Klingler said most of the company's car sales are completed in the customer's home.

The VW Group sales boss used the examples from around the world to show how VW Group has adapted to meet the desires of each market. The end goal for VW Group is to become the world's No. 1 brand based on customer service -- and unit sales -- by 2018.

Feeding, entertaining and pampering a customer is definitely the right way to get to that level.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com -- Follow Douglas A. on Twitter: BolducANE2014

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