Luxury automakers have been experimenting with virtual showrooms, where customers can use touch screens or even virtual reality technology to digitally kick the tires. Now Cadillac wants to usher in the virtual-retailing era in a big way -- with its smallest dealerships.
Cadillac is encouraging more than 400 of its lowest-volume U.S. dealerships -- mostly dual Chevrolet or Buick-GMC stores that sell 50 or fewer new Cadillacs a year -- to voluntarily adopt "virtual showrooms." Those dealerships would not stock Cadillac vehicles on their lots. Instead, sold orders would be expedited from regional inventory centers, Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said.
The stores would use a concierge-style approach to selling Cadillacs: Salespeople would routinely visit prospective buyers at their homes or workplaces, armed with slick touch-screen vehicle configurators or virtual-reality units supplied by Cadillac.
"We want to work with those small dealers to give Cadillac a competitive advantage in terms of reach into their local communities," de Nysschen said in an interview last week, "but do so in a way that's more closely aligned with what we think the Cadillac luxury brand experience should be."
De Nysschen presented the concept to hundreds of dealers last week during national brand meetings at a resort in Southern California. He also introduced a new architectural design theme for Cadillac dealerships to adopt in coming years -- committing $500 million to that effort -- as well as a dealer-incentive program that could boost the bonus money dealers can earn. (See story above.)
The proposals were worked out over the past year in conjunction with Cadillac's dealer council. Together, they represent de Nysschen's first comprehensive retail strategy for Cadillac's dealership network, a crucial piece of his broader turnaround plan.