Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc. is testing a computer kiosk that lets vehicle shoppers use a touch-screen to price vehicles and print out options.
The concept is similar to Chrysler Corp. kiosks in shopping malls.
Mercedes kicked off the test program in late May at Imported Cars of Greenwich in Greenwich, Conn. The company is expected to expand the pilot in mid-June to nine dealerships in other markets. If the pilot is successful, Mercedes is expected to roll it out nationwide.
'Customers are very impressed with the kiosk. It is a time-saver. All the pricing information comes up on the screen so you don't have to present it on paper,' said Roger Colson, sales manager of Imported Cars of Greenwich.
The kiosk offers 59 minutes of full-screen video, but users can enter and exit the program whenever they want, said Carolyn Papaleo, a communications specialist for Mercedes. Eventually, customers will be able to access the Mercedes-Benz Web site on the kiosk, which will provide more detailed product information.
Shoppers can see each Mercedes model in any color and rotate the car's interior and exterior 360 degrees. 'This is a tool we see as an assistant to the sales adviser,' said Bill Hurley, manager of new media and technology for Mercedes-Benz.
With the kiosk-user's permission, a name, address, phone number and vehicle preference will be entered into Mercedes' customer follow-up program.
The pilot does not let customers view dealership inventory on the kiosks, but this might be an option if Mercedes rolls out the program nationally, said Hurley.
Dealers will purchase the kiosks from Mercedes. The company has not determined if the program will be mandatory or optional for dealers. Mercedes has not decided on a price.
Information on the 7-foot tall, 2-foot by 2-foot kiosk will be updated when the company introduces new models. Eventually, the information could be changed as often as every two weeks, said Hurley.
The software was created jointly with Mercedes' advertising agency, Lowe & Partners/SMS of New York, and software developer Dennis Interactive, the interactive division of Dennis Publishing.
Jean Halliday of Advertising Age, a sister publication to Automotive News, contributed to this report.