Ford is looking to take advantage of the latest virtual reality technology as a way of enhancing its customers retail experience.
The adoption of at-home VR technology could see new car shoppers able to take 24/7 ‘test drives’ from the comfort of their own living rooms, according Ford's global digital experience chief, Jeffrey Nowak.
"It really is a blank canvas. It is easy to imagine that someone who wants to buy an SUV could experience taking that car for a test drive over desert dunes without leaving the comfort of their home," Mr Nowak said.
Ford's global trend and futuring manager, Sheryl Connelly, likens the test drive process to a first date, in that it is an emotional experience and would help potential customers make the purchasing decision in a more convenient and comfortable environment.
Ford is drawing on its experience with VR – it currently uses the technology in its design phase with virtual engineering centres in seven countries including Australia – to help streamline the purchasing process for potential buyers.
At Ford's Asia Pacific Product Development Centre in Melbourne the technology is used to help its designers and engineers see the craftsmanship and finished look of a vehicle without the need for a physical prototype. VR also helps to develop aerodynamics and safety systems and streamlines the development process making the timeline to production all that much shorter.
Nowak expects VR to have a similar impact on purchasing, where buyers can customise details down to the smallest details.
"We envisage that one day a customer could identify the model they are interested in – from the colour, to the exact finish of their interior – and the time and place they would like to simulate.”
"There really is no limit to the depth of detail. The possibilities are endless." said Nowak.
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