Could The Auto Dealership Of The Future Sell Experiences Over Cars?

Could The Auto Dealership Of The Future Sell Experiences Over Cars?
Automotive

As disruptions from driverless cars to ride-hailing services continue to transform the automotive retail landscape, brands increasingly are turning to selling experiences rather than products to connect with consumers

Dave Pinter, PSFK
  • 9 november 2018

There’s been a lot written about how driverless cars could change the auto industry as well as vehicle ownership as we know it today. If there is a shift away from people purchasing cars for private use and instead relying more on shared transportation services, traditional auto dealerships could find themselves facing a significant challenge. The most vulnerable could be those located in big cities, where self-driving vehicle services may be particularly popular.

There’s evidence that automotive brands won’t completely abandon having a physical space presence in major cities, however, though they might not be the franchised dealership facilities of today. In New York City, for example, Ford Hub, an experiential mobility space, has been open in the Oculus transit station for a few years. Nothing is sold out of the Ford Hub space; instead it’s more focused on education and gathering people’s opinions about mobility services.

Then there’s Cadillac House, located on the ground floor of the company’s former NYC headquarters. It’s a multi-use space that’s part showroom, cafe, retail incubator and gallery. Finally, opening in mid-November, 2018 is the third location of Intersect by Lexus. The three-floor NYC location will include a restaurant and bar, retail shop, design gallery and a vip floor that will host art exhibitions and special events. The NYC Intersect location is similarly hospitality-focused, like the existing two locations in Tokyo and Dubai,

There’s yet another place in New York City that brings together transportation, hospitality and retail in an even more potent way: the Classic Car Club of Manhattan (CCC). Located on the edge of the Hudson River projects, the CCC for a long time has been doing what many automakers are just starting to experiment with. And it could represent a kind of prototype urban facility, especially for premium and performance automotive brands in the future.

Classic Car Club Manhatan-2.jpg

“CCC’s primary function is to provide unique experiences—driving cool cars is only one facet of our mission,” says Zac Moseley, Owner and Director at Classic Car Club. The cool cars indeed are a strong part of the lure to become a member of CCC and has access to drive them. PSFK had the chance to attend one of its”Autogasm” events hosted for local media, a mini rally where a half dozen or so cars from the collection are taken out by members and driven on scenic or challenging roads. In this case it was from NYC up to Bear Mountain, about an hour north of Manhattan.

Classic Car Club - Manhattan - Autogasm-3.jpg

The collection of cars on offer were all supercars from Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Acura. Any of these is totally impractical to own in New York City, which is partly why the club selects vehicles like these in the first place. “The beauty of the club is being able to drive something you’d never want to own,” said Shari Gab, Membership Manager at Classic Car Club.

Classic Car Club - Manhattan Autogasm-4.jpg

Autogasm is part test drive, part sight-seeing tour and part social gathering. Everyone gets a chance behind the wheel of each of the cars and while the point of the experience is to have fun, CCC staff make sure safety is everyone’s primary concern. It’s a vastly different experience from the around-the-block test drive you’d get at a typical dealership; that is, if keys to Lamborghinis were freely given out.

Classic Car Club - Manhattan - 2015 Lamborghini Huracan-2.jpg

The member community that makes up the CCC has a clubhouse space designed for socializing. The lower floor is home to a bar and dining and lounge area. Upstairs is a second lounge overlooking the Hudson River where members can host meetings during the day and have a quiet place to share a drink with friends in the evening.

Classic Car Club Manhatan-4.jpg

The interiors by NYC-based Marc Thorpe Design stray from being overly automotive-themed. There are hints of motorcycles and cars in the art and some of the custom furniture, but overall the spaces project a modern sophistication with an industrial edge. It’s the sort of environment one would expect to be in after stepping out of a vintage Land Rover or modern McLaren.

Classic Car Club Manhatan-3.jpg

Down a dark hallway on the second floor is a door that leads to a racing simulator room that happens to be one of the most advanced in the U.S. The room features a pair of model TL3 simulators developed by U.K.-based Motion Simulation in partnership with universities and Formula 1 teams. The pod-shaped simulators project a 200-degree image that basically surrounds the viewer.

Classic Car Club Manhatan-5.jpg

The experience conveys a sense of how serious these rigs are by the questions about susceptibility to motion sickness or heart conditions the staff asks before participants start driving. The seats are fully adjustable with 3-axis motion, and the steering wheel provides (sometimes rather violent) force feedback.

Radios are worn for each session so the staff race monitor can make sure drivers are ok if things go sideways on track. The experience of running a few laps is sweat-inducing and not at all easy. CCC runs what it calls a “Synthetic Racing” series where members compete for best lap times and race wins.

Beyond the directly automotive-related facets of CCC, what really makes it unique is the event programming. There’s a weekly calendar of events that is sent out to all members. Events span from comedy nights and film screenings to burlesque shows and boxing matches. They also offer weekly happy hours, BBQs and family days on weekends geared towards kids.

Time will tell whether autonomous vehicles will seriously erode private car sales, or whether the desire to experience enjoyable driving on twisty roads or on a scenic trip will be replaced by self-driving cars. These sorts of experiences are ones automakers could facilitate through similar membership models to what CCC offers. There may also be a case for an online company like Turo to expand to dedicated fleets of specialty vehicles and offer fun, focused driving opportunities. Regardless, what really sets CCC ahead is the community and social focus of what it does.

Classic Car Club Manhattan


Photos: Dave Pinter

There’s been a lot written about how driverless cars could change the auto industry as well as vehicle ownership as we know it today. If there is a shift away from people purchasing cars for private use and instead relying more on shared transportation services, traditional auto dealerships could find themselves facing a significant challenge. The most vulnerable could be those located in big cities, where self-driving vehicle services may be particularly popular.

+Automotive
+Autonomous
+brand activation & immersion
+Cadillac
+Cafe & Restaurant
+car dealership
+children
+experience
+Lexus
+loyalty & membership
+Luxury
+retail
+self-driving
+Shopper education & assistance
+store experience & design

Learn About Our Membership Services

Need Research Help?
As a member you can ask us any research questions and get complimentary research assistance with a 4-day turnaround. Reports inclde stats, quotes, and best-inclass examples on research topics.
Remain Informed & Strategic
We publish several trends reports each month. By becoming a member you will have access to over 100 existing reports, plus a growing catalog of deep topical analysis and debrief-style reports so you always remain in the know.
See Trends Come To Life
Meet your peers and immerse yourself in monthly trend and innovation webinars and discounted conferences.
No search results found.