DETROIT -- Though Cadillac's XT4 compact premium crossover isn't yet available, dealers can get a head start marketing the vehicle -- not through traditional on-site inventory but instead with virtual reality.
Dealership salespeople can assist future buyers through virtually experiencing the new vehicle, and all of Cadillac's models, using the brand's virtual reality project. The project, demonstrated to reporters at GM's headquarters here on Friday, won't fully replace in-store inventory. Instead, it will give customers the option to test features such as exterior and interior colors, trim levels and other specifications earlier and without having to wait for physical inventory.
Skip D'Amico, the digital innovation lead for Cadillac, told Automotive News the visual quality of the project is such that it convinces customers they are actually in the vehicle.
"You're in it versus looking at it," D'Amico said. "There are no limits."
D'Amico said the project was designed in a way to be social both visually and aurally.
"We really want the technology not to be a barrier, but a different way to connect with people," D'Amico said.
As part of its Project Pinnacle retail overhaul plan, Cadillac had planned to have some of its smallest dealerships use virtual showrooms rather than keeping vehicles in stock, but it dropped that requirement last fall.
D'Amico said the project serves as a greater marketing asset for any dealership within the global dealer network, regardless of size. The first 10 installations of the virtual reality technology will begin in June, and around 50 of Cadillac's 926 dealers nationwide have enrolled in the program so far.
D'Amico estimates 25 percent of sales from Cadillac's pilot showroom at Cadillac of Greenwich, Conn., can be attributed to the use of the technology, which they've been using since last summer.
"At some point in the conversation, VR becomes a player," D'Amico said.
Eric Sandstrom, vice president at Cadillac of Greenwich, told Automotive News he welcomed the technology due to having small square footage in his dealership to park inventory. While Sandstrom said it is difficult to quantify sales as stemming from use of virtual reality, he noted the dealership showcases new products with it nearly 30 percent of the time.
"It's so real that people are able to say, yes that's the one," Sandstrom said. "Customers are really impressed by the quality, the clarity."