“As an independent car research and advisory service, we sit between buyers, manufacturers and sellers of new cars,” CarExpert co-founder Alborz Fallah said.
The centre is staffed by independent car experts who can guide customers through the 40 or so cars from numerous brands. When a customer “develops an appetite” to buy a car, they are connected to local dealers in a concierge style service without taking fees or commission.
Fallah said he is confident that the concept of a brand-agnostic test centre will resonate with car buyers and make them feel more at ease when making a high-involvement purchase.
“The most consistent feedback we get from readers and viewers of our content is that they want an easier real-world experience when it comes to a new car purchase,” Fallah said.
“There is no denying that the way people buy new cars is changing rapidly. We are bringing the best and most popular cars to a new environment and providing independent expert advice where there is no push for a sale, therefore removing the anxiety often associated with the new car purchasing experience.”
The rise of showrooms in shopping centres
The move follows the recent launch of a new AutoMall concept by shopping centre managers AMP Capital and Eagers Automotive.
In December 2021, Indooroopilly Shopping Centre in Brisbane’s inner-west will welcome the AutoMall, which will sell new and used vehicles and provide servicing and maintenance.
Antoinette Banwell, retail project manager, property at AP Eagers, said today’s customers are looking for “choice, flexibility and convenience” when deciding on a new car. And while many will do their research online first, the familiarity of a shopping centre setting appeals to this shopper when sealing the deal.
“They want to shop where they are familiar… where they feel comfortable. It’s about the overall experience and how they are treated – with respect, clear information and advice, presented with choices and in a pressure-free environment,” Banwell told Inside Retail.
Shopping centres are under constant pressure to evolve to the changing needs of customers, and with convenience being a high priority, they are increasingly becoming one-stop destinations for all consumer needs, from shopping and health care to dining and entertainment.
A spokesperson for AMP Capital said the introduction of the AutoMall shows how shopping centres are moving beyond the traditional retail journey.
“Whether you’re in the market for a new car, a new outfit or your weekly groceries – it’s all going to be on offer. This is the future of retail,” the spokesperson said.
Michael Baker, a retail expert and former head of research for International Council for Shopping Centers, has noticed a rise in high-end car boutiques in shopping malls, particularly in Asia and the US.
“Siam Paragon is an eight-level mall in downtown Bangkok. On the fifth level, it has showrooms for Aston Martin, Bentley, Harley Davidson, Jaguar, Maserati, BMW, Porsche, Rolls-Royce. On the sixth level it has Peugeot,” Baker explained.
“[These are] very high-end brands in vertical malls in locations visited by very affluent individuals. There is no difference conceptually between a luxury car/motorbike/power boat and any other kind of luxury item like jewellery, perfume or designer clothing.”
Given consumer’s high expectations of physical retailers, Baker said shopping centres need to be more creative than ever right now, and these auto malls or boutiques present an attractive proposition. The introduction of prestige, high tech and environmentally-friendly cars in particular are likely to enhance the marketing cache of the centre, he explained, and due to the high price point of these vehicles, sales per square metre will be high.
“If it is done tastefully, it could be a winning strategy. And it certainly occupies space, which is something a lot of shopping centres have in excess right now. Frankly, the surprising thing is not that it is being tried, but rather that it hasn’t been tried long before now. Is it a sign of desperation?”