The redesigned 2018 Land Rover Discovery doesn't arrive in U.S. showrooms until summer, but in a few days potential customers will be able to visit a dealership and take the SUV for a virtual test drive.
Jaguar Land Rover is shipping Virtual Reality Experience kits to all of its roughly 330 U.S. retailers by the end of the month, part of JLR's global rollout of the technology that will place the kits in 1,500 retailers in 85 markets. Dealers have to pay for the kits; JLR declined to say how much.
At the Paris auto show last fall, Joe Eberhardt, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, told Automotive News he believes virtual reality will be most valuable before a new vehicle arrives in showrooms in part because it allows customers to experience the interior and view color combinations.
Said Eberhardt: "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."
The virtual reality headset enables the customer to view and interact with a life-size model of the vehicle and see 360-degree views of the interior. Some of the videos available are technical animations that explain how the vehicle works.
"This new way of buying a car will engage customers further with our innovative capabilities," Andy Goss, JLR's group sales operations director, said in a statement. "The VR Experience will also help retailers break the ice with customers and inject even more fun into the process of buying our vehicles."
Other luxury brands, including Cadillac, also are pursuing virtual reality as a sales tool. Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen wants the brand's smallest dealerships to forgo stocking cars in favor of virtual showrooms.