SINGAPORE: As if the fast cars and flashy rides are not enough to give visitors an eyeful at this year's Singapore Motorshow which opened Thursday (Jan 12), car makers are tapping on virtual reality to give their offerings that extra bit of showroom shine.
Audi’s virtual showroom at Level 4 of the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre lets visitors visualise what their chosen car would look like with different specifications such as different rims and paint jobs.
Said Audi’s VR expert Johannes Menzel: “It’s not just about the visualisation of the car but it’s also about fun. It’s not simply about ‘Oh we have this car in blue or red’, it’s about getting the people’s interest.”
He added: “You can also now imagine the car in different environments. Maybe you live in an urban area, and you may not want to visualise your car in a natural landscape for instance.
“You’d want to see your car in the setting of your life and your area, and this is how virtual reality can help people in choosing their car and be 100 per cent sure of their decision.”
The company would like to rev things up with virtual test rides as well, but the idea is still being worked on. “(Driving the car in virtual reality) is definitely in the works. The challenge though, lies in showing driving scenes in the car. You may be ‘moving’ in VR, but your other senses are saying that you’re being stationary in real-life, and that (dissonance) makes you feel sick,” explained Mr Menzel, who flew in from Germany for the motorshow.
He added: “We want to build a premium experience, where people feel good after stepping out of the virtual world, and we want to make possible where people can have a much more sophisticated experience than what they’re usually experiencing at an Audi showroom.”
“We want a situation where people say 'Oh it was worthwhile going to the showroom', and that it was a memorable experience.”
VR TO REPLACE SHOWROOMS?
Hyundai’s showcase at Level 3 of Suntec's convention centre offers visitors a glimpse of the technology behind their next-generation Hyundai Ioniq hybrid cars. The Korean carmaker’s exhibit features a 360-degree virtual view of the car's interiors as well.
“We’re working together with Samsung and their VR to showcase the Hyundai Ioniq’s capabilities, as we’re not taking the car out for (customer) test drives just yet,” said Hyundai Singapore’s marketing manager, Shirley Sng. “At our roadshow last November, we were able to showcase the Ioniq features in our Hyundai cars using VR to illustrate its performance ahead of today’s motorshow.”
Channel NewsAsia's Noor Farhan learning more about the Hyundai Ioniq via VR. (Photo: Winnie Goh)
She added: “VR is one way in which we communicate and showcase our products as well as technology which we can’t present to our customers at that point in time."
The Hyundai marketing manager, however, does not believe that virtual reality will render physical showrooms obsolete. “Personally I don’t think VR will replace showrooms (even if) it does give a somewhat realistic experience of the car, from the comfort of your seat at home.
“For us, the technology is for potential customers to immerse themselves in the brand before experiencing the real feel and look of the car in the showroom.”
The showroom still represents an integral part of the buying experience, she said, especially the "physical time and contact" between the customer and the salesperson and the car, which could be key to sealing a deal.
Said Ms Sng: “It’s different in a virtual world. You can see (the car) but you can’t touch it. You may hear the car but you can’t physically experience the engine. In real life, you can also feel the interiors and experience the sensory inputs from being there in person.”
The Singapore Motorshow runs from Jan 12 to 15. Click here for details on tickets.