/ Motoring, Technology

Would you buy a car via a virtual dealership?

Fiat Live Store screenshot

Buying a car from a car dealer can be a daunting prospect, even for hardened petrolheads. So how about starting the car buying process with a virtual test drive on your laptop instead?

Even if you’re knowledgeable about cars and know exactly what you want, buying from a car dealer can be an intimidating experience. For many people, car dealers rank just one rung above estate agents and lawyers as professions we love to hate. And some car salespeople can come across as both pushy and unhelpful to those browsing for a new car.

Fiat introduces its Live Store to Brazil

Fiat thinks it has a solution – Live Store. Its Brazilian arm has created a website dedicated to offering potential buyers virtual test drives, all without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.

Salespeople wearing special headsets fitted with high-resolution cameras and microphones can talk buyers around different models in a showroom studio. You can then interact with the car on your computer or tablet, where you can check out the car’s specifications, as well as different colours and accessories.

You can see how Fiat’s service works in this promotional video. The voiceover’s in Portuguese, but you’ll get the idea:


How do you like to buy cars?

The aim of this real-time service is to shorten the car purchasing process and help people quickly determine which model suits them, before visiting the showroom in person. And it avoids the scenario of overzealous salespeople bullying less car savvy browsers into buying an unsuitable model or spending more than they had planned.

Following a successful virtual tour, buyers can then decide whether any models take their fancy and, if so, they can book a test drive on the spot. All of this means that by the time potential buyers make their first visit to the dealership they already have a good idea of which model they’re most interested in.

Fiat’s Live Store service has just launched exclusively in Brazil, running between 10am and 7pm Monday to Saturday. Would you want it to make its way to the UK? Would you prefer to view new cars online via a virtual dealership, or would you rather spend time looking around real showrooms, touching potential purchases first-hand?


I have never enjoyed meetings with over-zealous salesmen. After a particularly unpleasant experience last year I have decided to forgo the advantages of visiting local showrooms and buy online in future.

It will be a few years until I’m in the market for a new car, so perhaps virtual dealerships will be a popular option by then.

Sophie Gilbert says:
3 October 2013

I have never found that a test drive was really enough to give me the real feel of a car and whenever I’ve had to hire a car I’ve never test driven them beforehand anyway, I’ve always just taken what I was given, so I would definitely give a virtual test drive a go. Also, I dislike car dealer/salesman shenanigans/theatricals, such as “I’ll give you a discount, but I’ll have to check with my boss first”, off to the boss’s desk, whispers and nods, and back to me with the OK. They just make me laugh, but I’d rather avoid them if I can.

I had a lot of this carry on from one salesman. He was determined that I should take out gap insurance, which I had never heard of. During his two excursions to see the boss, I looked up Which? and confirmed that gap insurance might be worthwhile and got a couple of prices. I was able to tell the salesman that his price ‘at which they would be making no profit’ was nearly as good as available elsewhere and showed him the evidence on my tablet. That took the wind out of his sails, but it was not long before he launched into his performance again.

Anything that puts the buyer in control has to be a good thing. We bought our last new car in 2009 and, in preparation, having narrowed the choice down to an Audi after various showroom visits to the different dealerships, we pored over the technical specs and options so that we had a complete specification of exactly what we wanted right down to the veneer on the door trims. It was effectively a bespoke vehicle and there was no scope left for upselling [which probably also took some of the wind out of their sales!]. There was the ritual argy-bargy over the trade-in value of our previous car but otherwise it was a done deal from the moment we entered the palatial showroom. The efficiency of Audi was incredible. Once our spec had been fed into the ordering system we were told when the metal would start being cut on the production line at Ingoldstadt and on which day the completed vehicle would be delivered, and . . . hey presto! . . . it was bang on time, and perfect in every respect. Ausgezeichnet! We don’t do huge mileage and it’s a very good car so it might be a long time before we visit a dealership again. As Wavechange says, in the meantime the virtual dealership system might have developed to the point where the pushy salesperson is a thing of the past.

If I could give car sales people just one tip it would be > leave the customer alone before pouncing on them. Just because we open a car door doesn’t mean we want a lecture; we can see the price on the placard; and we know that extras cost extra.

There was an advert on TV last night for a new Suzuki, an SX4 S-Cross. It told us nothing about the car itself, but then it’s not a car, its a “crossover” apparently, and a “way of life”. Should go down well in SX !

I’ve bought several cars, over a period of about 20 years, from someone who would probably be classified as a “Pushy Salesman” but why not push back?
Keep on asking for this to be added, that to be included and ‘x’ percentage taken off the price?
My wife keeps criticising me for doing it but as I tell her “He isn’t going to agree to anything where he’s not making a profit so I’ll just keep on pushing!”
In addition, I usually get to borrow the car for sometimes ‘a few hours’ up to, on one occasion, the weekend? Again, ask for an extended test drive period!!

If you don’t ask you don’t get!! Don’t roll over and wait for your belly to be rubbed, bite back!!