Subaru is continuing to upset the traditional retail model with a leftfield look at the way it sells and services its cars. Following the success of its pop-up stores in shopping centres, the Japanese brand is exploring more innovative ways to improve customer experience instead of asking its dealers to invest in ever-larger “Taj Mahal” dealerships.
When the company announced a service centre would join its Werribee shopping centre retail outfit, the diary filled up to capacity in just 10 days. Subaru is planning on riding that wave of popularity with more unorthodox strategies on the way.
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A fleet of mobile servicing vans has already launched, bringing the workshop to the customer. Instead of taking time out to visit a dealership and then find alternative transport, the Subaru mobile service technician goes to the customer’s most convenient location.
Speaking to WhichCar, Subaru Australia managing director Colin Christie said “mobile is the next big one for us,” and taking retail to the road was the brand’s future, with the sales department set to follow the service vans out onto Australia’s streets.
“The mobile test drive has been in pilot for a few months now in Sydney,” he said. “That will roll nationally in 2019.”
Instead of making a special trip to one of Subaru’s dealerships or shops, customers can request a member of the sales team to meet them at their home or workplace with a vehicle for a test drive.
Christie explained that, in parallel, a special sales application based on the existing build-and-buy online configurator is being trialled in 10 dealerships. Once fine-tuned, the application will allow customers to buy a Subaru remotely too.
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“When that works then we’ll start mobile sales as well. Ideally, someone can come to your house, they can bring the car you want to test drive. If you like it they can transact with you end to end in your home and then ultimately have the car delivered to you and do the handover process at your office or home.”
The success of relatively small stores and the new service centre based in a retail location, followed by even more compact mobile services is highlighting the need for small, targeted customer infrastructure, not sprawling dealership complexes, said Christie.
“We believe there’s a massive role for our dealer network but I think that is going to change. Do you need the big Taj Mahals in the future? You shouldn’t need to spend that amount of money to deliver the experience to the customer.”
Subaru’s more inventive strategy for its dealership presence will benefit both dealer and customer alike, according to the company, allowing franchisees to invest more in improving customer satisfaction.
“Do you need massive dealerships everywhere to deliver this experience?” Asked Christie. “Every brand goes through refresh processes every three to five years and we have been very mindful over the last ten years to not ask for significant investment from our dealers.
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“We want them to invest in their technology and their people rather than building a bigger glass box.”
As for the most recent shopping centre-based workshop, Christie said the reception had been deeply satisfying and the company was looking at ways to meet the high demand, including other locations and even expanding the initial Werribee premises.
“We’re incredibly impressed with the take-up. We’re already looking at multi-man and extending the hours even more, run fast services across everything and maybe even talk to the landlord about knocking an even bigger hole”.