Once believed to be the stuff of science fiction, autonomous vehicles are predicted to soon be mainstays of the road. Pilot programs by Uber and Google show that fully autonomous travel is within reach. Already, city travel has shifted significantly from people owning and operating cars, to the majority using Lyft-like services. Along with these changes, consumer habits are beginning to change when it comes to car purchases.

While it is doubtful that personal cars will ever be completely obsolete, there is room to worry about the role of dealerships in this new, autonomous vehicle world. Luckily, there is time to prepare for the turnover in driving habits, and there are steps dealerships can take to not only weather the coming change, but to capitalize on it.

Service with a Smile… and a Chat Box

The greatest resource a dealership has is its human resource. But even human resources are changing. While you will still have purists who come into your dealership for the hands-on experience of seeing a car for themselves and interacting with you on a personal level, it’s becoming clear that those customers are swiftly becoming a minority. The majority today prefer to communicate remotely. This accounts for the popularity of travel websites like Kayak and Orbitz, where customers can look and choose for themselves, sidestepping their discomfort of face-to-face interactions.

To combat this, dealerships should begin developing their online services. Key is making sure that your website is easy to navigate, with distinct, sharp graphics. It is also worth investing in chat services that allow customers to interact on their terms.

Service with Speed

In addition to investing in online selling, another key to selling in the age of autonomous driving is to provide speedy, convenient service. Today’s consumers are used to quick, instant purchasing. Often, they have a product in mind, along with a timeline of how long they’re willing to spend choosing the item, and how much bureaucracy they’re willing to put up with. Though you may be used to customers coming by two or three times to kick tires before committing, that will change sooner than you think. Clients will expect the process to be streamlined and simple. They will appreciate any red tape you can remove over any extra time you can give them.

Niche Sales

Even if the predominant method of travel becomes autonomous, there will always be aficionados. There is something about owning or collecting cars that ignites the imagination of many. If a dealer is nervous about taking a hit in the new economy, they should consider switching their inventory to niche categories that will attract niche buyers. When doing this, a dealer shouldn’t focus on purely the local consumer. Again, a well developed and run website is a good investment here, as you’ll be able to attract a wider range of buyers.

Finally, when looking towards the future, the main thing is not to become intimidated. Take heart in the many industries that have escaped collapse when faced with possible technologically-induced extinction. Just as the travel agency, postal and boutique shopping sectors evolved to embrace the new age, your dealership can also evolve. It will take some transformation and hybridization, but it is possible to have it all.

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