Dealer response is mixed to Volkswagen's recent announcement that some shoppers could soon schedule in-person Alexa-guided test drives.
The approximately 30-minute-long test drive is enabled through an Echo Auto device on the vehicle's dashboard, VW says. The automaker did not immediately respond to a Wards request for more details about the program that will soon only offer such test drives in select markets with the ID.4 CUV.
"We are excited about this new technology at our VW dealership," Rachel Pullen, president of the 16-store Browns Automotive Group in Virginia and Maryland, tells Wards. "Customers trust Amazon as a brand and Alexa's technology. This allows consumers to ask questions and to apply that same trust to the answers."
VW announced late last week that the Alexa drives would begin this fall. Interested shoppers would have brief walk-arounds with VW product specialists and then have "real-world test drives" with Alexa "as their companions." Those interested in more details or purchases would then be directed to dealerships.
Tyler Corder, chief financial officer, the Nevada-based Findlay Auto Group, which has 37 dealerships in six states, tells Wards he has mixed thoughts about the initiative.
"I can see that a certain portion of the population would like this. However, I fear the loss of a personal relationship with a salesperson would overall be a negative. Buying a car is more of an emotional decision than a rational decision.
"Most people don't actually need a new car but rather are buying one based on how they see themselves in the new car,” Corder says. “The test drive is a major part of that emotional decision. Removing the personal relationship with a trained sales consultant would seem to be a negative to me."
Alexa-partnered test drives would allow shoppers to drive the vehicle while asking questions about its functions.
"For example,” VW explains, “a question about the car's available massaging seats will prompt a response of: 'The seat massage function is available in the front seats of the I.D.4 Pro S and Pro S with Gradient. If you'd like to try it, just ask, 'Alexa, how do I turn on the massage feature?'"
The automaker says Alexa will answer drivers' questions in a "fresh, fun manner." Available topics include the vehicle’s battery, charging, blindspot monitor, connecting infotainment, cost, regular maintenance and more.
"In our push to bring EVs and electromobility to all, we need to find new and exciting ways to talk to our customers," Andrew Savvas, chief sales and marketing officer- Volkswagen Group of America, says in a statement. "This collaboration with Amazon does just that. Future Volkswagen owners can experience all our ID.4 has to offer with the aid of a voice service they've already come to know."
VW and Amazon Ads have created a landing page where customers can sign up at www.amazon.com/id4testdrive for a test drive with Alexa.