Don't be surprised to see a vehicle dealership popping up in your neighbourhood shopping centre, right next to your favourite fashion store in the near future.
This is already happening overseas: Subaru has opened a dealership in a shopping centre in Melbourne, Australia; Hyundai has opened a dealership in a shopping centre in Kent in the United Kingdom; Tesla has a dealership at the Westfield Shopping Centre in London, to name but a few examples.
Mercedes-Benz pop-up shop. Image source: Mercedes-Benz press
More recently, Mercedes-Benz last year experimented with pop-up stores in shopping centres in Atlanta and Miami in the US. Now it is set to open a store in a mall in Chicago.
The relocation of dealerships to shopping centres has been driven by a reduced number of customer walk-ins at conventional dealerships. This is an international trend that is also being seen in South Africa.
In 2015, consumers in South Africa visited three to four dealerships before purchasing a car. Now, in 2018, they only visit one or two before signing on the dotted line.
One of the solutions to this dilemma is moving the dealership to a shopping centre. As Neil Smith, from Imperial Cars in the United Kingdom, noted at a recent AutoTrader Dealer Master Class: "Dealerships located in shopping centres get more walk-ins than anywhere else."
The move to shopping centres is being accompanied by more innovative ways of selling cars. For instance, the Alibaba Group and Ford recently lifted the lid on a massive car vending machine. Unstaffed and located in Guangzhou, it facilitates the purchase of a car in under 10 minutes - without any human intervention.
Only a matter of time
It is only a matter of time before we see dealerships in shopping centres and facilities such as the car vending machine in South Africa.
We are a nation of car lovers and, thanks to our limited public transport infrastructure, the demand for a car is predicted to remain high.
Coupled with this, we also appreciate convenience – like consumers the world over. So, watch this space... We will soon be seeing developments like these in South Africa.