No cars in stock, just virtual reality headsets and service bays, a few demonstrator/service loan vehicles. That is the possible Cadillac dealership of the future, at least at a certain level, and is an idea division president Johan de Nysschen has been floating for months.
The problem, according to a Wall Street Journal report, is GM's flagship division has about three times as many US retail outlets as rival German brands or Toyota's Lexus, but sells only about half the volume so a plan is being developed to convert some of the 925 'stores' into virtual dealerships with low overheads and high technology.
Reportedly, de Nysschen is about to start seeking commitments from some dealers willing to set up showrooms where buyers can get a car serviced or learn about products via virtual reality headsets without getting behind the wheel. Driving off immediately with a new vehicle – something US buyers expect far more than luxury car buyers in many other countries – will be impossible because these stores won't carry stock.
The WSJ said the virtual dealerships are a part of 'Project Pinnacle', a retail strategy overhaul by de Nysschen first introduced to dealers several months ago in closed-door meetings. He is said to be changing the way the company compensates dealers by rewarding them less on the basis of vehicles sold (an industry practice known as stair stepping) and more on the way those dealers mimic better performing luxury brands with perks such as free roadside assistance.
The division plans a roadshow to seek dealers' views and establish if those with the lowest volumes would consider moving to a so called 'tier 5' which is virtual.
A GM spokesman told the WSJ Cadillac is working on the concept and researching technologies.
Dealers who do decide to go virtual will still have demonstrators on hand for use on test drives or service loans. Cadillacs are US-made so orders should be quickly filled, the WSJ said, citing dealers familiar with the plans.
The report noted strategies that eliminate vehicle stocks have been rarely employed in the US.