PARIS -- Jaguar Land Rover sees a major role for virtual reality as it redesigns its dealerships and sales process, its top North American executive said.
"We will have some virtual reality experiences in our dealerships," Joe Eberhardt, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, said at the auto show here. "I think that will be a big part of the showroom experience."
Virtual reality probably will be most valuable before a new vehicle arrives in showrooms, allowing customers to experience the interior and check out color combinations, Eberhardt said.
"I think there's definitely a space for that, and we're working on that as we speak," he said. "It will never replace the real dealer experience, but it will have a big role, a very prominent role in the sales process going forward."
Jaguar Land Rover is converting dealerships to its new Arch store design that houses both of its brands, as well as developing a way to connect online and in-store shopping.
The first store with the new design has opened: a dealership owned by Penske Automotive Group Inc. in Darien, Conn. Four more under development will be completed this year, Eberhardt said. They are in Manhattan, Honolulu, Fairfield, Conn.; and Grand Rapids, Mich.
More than 100 projects are in various stages of planning, Eberhardt said.
Having both brands in the same store is meant to improve dealer profits, he said, "because it allows us to have complementary product portfolios where we can cross-sell between the brands, but also where we don't have to develop a product for each need for each of the brands.
"We can fill different needs with different brands, and we get a better throughput for the fixed operations, i.e., the service and parts department."
Eberhardt said Jaguar Land Rover has formed a "retailer cabinet" to define new processes and customer expectations in a digital world.