The future of test drives?

  05 September 2016

Whether you think it was merely a publicity stunt or a genuine attempt at creating sales leads, you can’t deny that Jaguar’s recent competitive test drive initiative was a bold move. Despite increasing focus being put on Internet-based car buying research, for some consumers there’s no substitute for getting behind the wheel prior to committing to a purchase – even if it’s only to confirm the choice they’ve already made in their heads.

By offering a select number of key rivals alongside its own product, Jaguar has broken down few barriers in terms of keeping said rivals at a distance and out of the sales conversation. Sure,  the buying public can always do their own research – read reviews, book test drives – but I’ll bet more than a few thought it was an efficient and rewarding activity.

Of course not every OEM can pull this off, although Peugeot conducted a similar exercise when launching its then-new 308. Jaguar’s XE model is still relatively new – try doing this with a soon to be replaced model and the customer verdicts might not be so favourable. Plus, in this executive sector, the choice isn’t as wide as, say, for superminis or compact SUVs. That’s likely to have made the logistics more manageable. Still, the 250-odd fleet of Mercedes, Audi and BMW models used as part of the promotion was quite a commitment.

I’m going to stick my neck out and profess to be a little cynical. Savvy buyers will have done most of the important comparison research in advance, which these days revolves around VED calculations and the all-important monthly payments. User choosers might already have sampled rival models at length through a company loan scheme, which means sitting in and prodding the various buttons of four cars is just a bonus. I can’t really see Ford, Vauxhall et al making this a mainstream activity anytime soon, though.

Iain Dooley

Editor, Agenda

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