Markus Leithe, Managing Director Middle East Commercial Operation of General Motors. Al Ghandi will put up all of its latest model-year vehicles on the portal. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: You can now buy a car in Dubai from the comfort of your living room.

Or more precisely, any of the Chevrolet models through the online ‘showroom’ operated by Al Ghandi Auto Group, the local dealership which becomes the first in the region to do so.

“The way we see it, buying a car can be a family affair done in front of the TV in the sitting room,” said Markus Leithe, managing director of commercial operations at General Motors Middle East. “Already a lot of the research prior to buying is a car is being done online — what we now offer is taking the process further down the road.

“And we have done research that shows 48-50 per cent of UAE customers are kind of open to buying cars online.”

Al Ghandi will put up all of its latest model-year vehicles on the portal, and someone wanting to buy online can then choose pick their specifications — colour, trim levels, etc. At some point later on, the portal could even support sales of pre-owned Chevrolet models, the official added.

The automotive retail sector in the UAE thus finally gets to make a shift towards the digital space. Until now, dealerships had limited digital encroachment to aggressive campaigns online, including, of course, on social media. Some had experimented with dedicated areas in their brick-and-mortar showrooms where buyers could go digital in browsing through the various options.

But all these attempts fell well short of helping with the actual sale happening online. This is where Chevrolet wants to set an early marker with the ‘Shop Click Drive’ programme. It has done so in the US, Canada and Brazil and, now, Dubai goes online.

“Al Ghandi wanted to be the first in the region to do so with us and this will be expanded to our other dealerships,” said Leithe. “The whole idea is to offer more convenience to customers — those times when car dealerships would only rely on showroom sales are over. It’s the same everywhere in retail.

“It had to be... when 90 per cent of the research ahead of a car purchase gets done online.”

Chevrolet and Al Ghandi’s online moves could open the doors to more dealerships and their brands heading the same way. And the showrooms become the place where automotive brands try and lock in customer loyalty for good.

As a marketing tool, selling digital has its benefits. If dealerships can sweeten the offers through digital-only incentives, more buyers could be persuaded to do so online. Those tools and techniques that worked in other retail categories can be made to work in the automotive sector.

It could then translate into time and cost savings for dealerships in time spent to close a deal. For dealerships representing higher-end models, it gives them the ideal platform to get buyers to do heavy customisation and pad up the ticket value.

But will it necessarily mean a sales boost for the industry? “The way we see it is about adding longer term strategic value,” said Leithe. “And if a sales boost happens as a consequence, we will take it.”