For most people, the experience of buying a car can be a long and laborious process. 

As research has shown, most people dislike dealerships and would definitely consider buying a vehicle online instead.

Conveniently, the automotive industry has seen greater focus on digital channels and certainly an increase in creative ad campaigns over the past few years.

Now with many brands utilising Virtual and Augmented Reality, the car-buying experience is changing even further. 

But despite the growing appetite for a digital experience, does VR and AR really address the needs of the average car consumer?

Or is it just a gimmick that appeals to technology fans and gamers?

In the run up to the Masters of Marketing awards, where automotive is always a hotly-contested category, here’s a look at how a few brands have been riding this new digital wave.


Audi has been exploring its digital offering for a while now. One of its biggest successes to date has been Audi City – its flagship store in London’s Piccadilly.

With its touchscreen tables and multi-display walls, it is a great example of how brands can bring the online world into physical stores. 

Entirely interactive, it allows customers to configure Audi models however they like, and even view a life-size version on a large display wall.

Using Microsoft Kinect sensors, hand gestures control features like the angle, zoom, and size.

Now going one step further, Audi recently announced that it will be fitting all of its dealerships with VR technology.

Using either an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset, customers will be able to experience what it’s like to sit inside the car as well as view it from a free-standing position.

Though it certainly sounds impressive, I do wonder if this technology will actually improve or speed up the car-buying experience, or whether it will simply draw out what is an already lengthy decision-making process.


One of the first automotive brands to utilise virtual reality, the Volvo Reality campaign chose Google Cardboard as a way of giving consumers a sneak peek of its latest release.

As part of the promotion for its new XC90 SUV model, Volvo paired Google Cardboard with an app to allow users the simulated experience of being inside the car.

More recently, Volvo announced a new partnership with Microsoft’s HoloLens – one of the newest AR headsets on the market.

Different from VR, augmented reality projects virtual images into view while still allowing the user to interact with the real world around them.

Though the HoloLens feature is yet to be launched in stores, it looks set to revolutionise the standard car demo.

By enabling the configuration of colours, wheel trims and even demonstrating how car sensors work, it should creates an engaging experience for the customer.


As well as automotive brands using VR and AR to improve the car-buying journey, many are also using technology to increase general brand awareness.

Renault Sport’s Clio Cup Experience is a great example of this.

Despite motor racing remaining a rather exclusive sport, Renault’s recent venture into the world of VR gives fans the opportunity to experience it for themselves.

Simulating a lap of the Renault Clio Cup, it offered a 360 degree, spine-tingling insight into what it's like to drive a race car.

By combining a video game experience with real life sport, Renault capitalises on VR's ability to transport the user into a whole new world.


Another example of a brand using VR in innovative ways is Toyota.

As part of its TeenDrive365 project in the US, the brand used Oculus Rift to show teenagers the dangers of distracted driving.

By simulating a fully immersive road environment complete with passengers, buildings and obstacles, the user is given a truly realistic driving experience.

Headphones pump in sounds to demonstrate how distractions can massively impact concentration.

By utilising VR for educational purposes, Toyota shows that new technology is not solely reserved for car demos.

Rather, it can be used to improve brand perception, awareness, and even loyalty. 

Don't forget to get your entries in for the Masters of Marketing awards before 3rd June!

For more on the topic of VR, check out these articles:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 27 May, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Google for "pimp my car games" (without the quotes) and you'll find a lot of apps that let you choose extras for your car - on standard smartphones it's true, but this gives them immensely greater reach and possibilities for social sharing.

Why don't car makers drop the designers of these games a few quid to produce branded versions so buyers can try out options at home. Anyone know if they are already doing this?

Many people don't like car dealerships, as you say, so even if manufacturers do equip them with VR Rigs, I suspect few individual buyers will have the confidence to use them. I think their real niche is for special events such as stag nights or after-work parties.

about 2 years ago

Craig Walmsley

Craig Walmsley, CEO & Co-Founder at rtobjects

Really love this type of thinking - there is great value in new digital ways to deliver a sense of "rehearsed ownership".

We deliver personal interactive movie experiences like this - in the browser - no app, headset, hardware or download required - and you're reaching people where they do their product research.

We're looking for forward-thinking clients and partners to help develop this new type of experience - so if that's you - get in touch!

about 2 years ago

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