Children’s play areas, meeting rooms, CNN, light-refreshments, magazines, newspapers, comfortable sofas and chairs: items you’d expect to find in an airport business lounge or hotel lobby will also be found in the new Lexus car dealerships appearing nationwide from October 1999.
Traditionally viewed as consumer-unfriendly, car retailing is one of the last industries to adopt the consumer-centric sales approach. Car dealerships are often regarded as intimidating places, especially by women who cite car dealerships as their least favourite place*. A view which ensures that between 70%-80% of customers who venture inside a dealership have already decided on their car purchase, preferring instead to select their car before they venture into a car salesroom. Considering that the financial investment made in a car purchase is probably second only to that made when buying a house, choosing a car should be a luxurious, enjoyable and satisfying experience.
Addressing the need for a more relaxed, consumer-focused approach, long since adopted by high street retailers and hotel chains, the unique elliptically shaped Lexus dealerships have been designed architecturally and attitudinally around the consumer. Gone are the harsh strip-lighting, the threadbare carpet tiles and the predatory sales technique. In their place is a light, open and relaxed interior, furnished with comfortable sofas and low-backed chairs all complemented by a comprehensive Audio Visual system.
These changes have been prompted by research which reveals that customers have traditionally been treated with hard sell tactics. One such tactic involved offering the customer a cup of coffee which would take 10 minutes to percolate. This would give the salesman 10 minutes in which to trap the customer into a deal, the customer feeling too polite to get up and walk away. A feeling of intimidation can also be created when car parks are difficult to find, entrances are not immediately obvious, when the interior of the salesroom feels unfamiliar and when salesmen are positioned aggressively near the door.
Elements from the office and the home have been incorporated into the new centres in order to make the car buying experience less alien, more familiar and more relaxing. Open, frameless, glazing reflects the Lexus approach to car sales – open, clean and honest. The interior has been planned in such a way as to leave the customers free to browse at their leisure, whilst offering the opportunity to interact with sales consultants if they wish. The unique and inviting selections areas, adjacent to the main showroom, offer colour and trim options and the opportunity to plan vehicle specifications prior to concluding a sale without ever having to enter the “infamous” closing room. The lack of enclosed spaces demonstrates to customers that there is always an option to leave the sales process. There is no pressure to buy.
Car buyers will be able to take advantage of the new service at new Lexus centres as they open from October 1999. Customers are advised to call 0845 278 8888 to check their nearest dealership.
* Marketplace Design – internal research 1998/9