Exclusive: Mahindra to use Dassault’s 3D VR software for car retail

by Takshak Dawda , 08 Sep 2016


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A participant gets a first-hand experience of Dassault Systemes' virtual reality software in Mumbai.

In a first for an Indian automaker, Mahindra & Mahindra is set to use Dassault Systemes ‘3D Virtual Garage’ for selling its vehicles across the country.

Dassault Systemes, which had its 3D Experience Forum in Mumbai today, said that Mahindra & Mahindra is set to opt for the company’s Virtual Garage software.

A company official told Autocar Professional: “Let’s say Mahindra has probably over 600 engineers, termed as ‘assets’, working on a KUV100 or a TUV300 model in Mumbai or Chennai typically. We make sure that Mahindra uses these assets from their research slabs for the 150-plus dealers and the sales team across India. Our model helps the sales team to explain the different features to prospective customers in a much better fashion.”

“When you walk into a showroom, the salesperson has to explain features like ABS and ESP. Usually, for an average customer from a Tier-2 city, such features are too complicated to understand. Our visualisation helps the sales team to explain the features in layman’s terms, also helping the customers with a live experience. Secondly, the real estate cost of setting up physical showrooms is too high. A booth or a kiosk of an upcoming vehicle helps customers experience the car at a minimal cost. This is something that Mahindra is doing,” he added.

“Virtual Garage is a part of digital marketing, which includes features like movies, images, special experience for showrooms. We are doing a lot of development on that,” explained Olivier Sappin, vice-president of Transportation & Mobility at Dassault Systemes.

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How does 3D Virtual Garage work?

At the 3D Experience Forum in Mumbai today, Dassault exhibited a range of products. Once you put on a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, you experience the interiors of the car that you opt for – in this case, it was a European DS3 car.

The look and feel of the car is so real that you reach out for the steering . . .  in vain. As you turn around your head, you see the complete interiors – right from the gear lever to the seat covers and dashboard – in life-like detail. Using a remote, the volunteer helps you customise the colour and texture of the seat covers and also choose between a wooden or an acrylic dashboard. After explaining all the features of the car, the volunteer also opens the car door for you. It’s only when you step out of your virtual car and take off the VR headset that it dawns upon you that you just got off your chair!

India focus

Talking about the key focus on India Olivier Sappin said: “One of the important solutions that we are pushing in India is the Global Validation, Proven Performance. The product is specifically for managing tests – physical and virtual. I see this as a big trend in India that with a lot of regulations on safety (Bharat NCAP, ABS) coming up, OEMs will invest in tests for which they will need software solutions.”

Dassault has a near-40% market share in Asia, with India being the third-biggest contributor behind Japan and China. The French company functions in a lot of verticals like aerospace and defence, engineering and architecture, industrial equipment, life sciences and transportation and mobility (which contributes close to 30% of the revenue) among others.

Dassault Systems already provides its 3DExcite product to Volvo Eicher in India. However, this is not used for retail purposes; instead, it focuses on the design aspect relying heavily on the product for ergonomics. In September 2015, Dassault partnered Ashok Leyland, offering two of their products – ‘Modular, Glocal and Secure’ and ‘Target Zero Defect’.

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Audi AG has been of the pioneers of virtual reality in automotive sales since 2012, blending digital innovation with the strengths and services of the physical dealership: Audi City, the cyberstore with a real presence, displays the brand’s automobiles on ceiling‑height digital powerwalls on a very life‑like 1:1 scale. There, visitors are able to configure their individual car step by step.

While it is undeniable that the role of technology is paramount in providing a seamless car buying experience and makes the life of a customer much easier, digitisation also opens the doors for carmakers to expand to newer markets with much lesser investments and a faster turnaround time.

According to Nick Gill, Global Head of Automotive Practice at Capgemini: "Within dealerships, use of technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality and customisation, being able to show people the full range of products with all accessories and features in a relatively limited space is slowly yet surely picking up."

With Mahindra & Mahindra likely to go ahead with plans for Dassault Systemes’ 3D Virtual Garage, it will have a first-mover advantage in the new age of digital automotive retail.

You may like: The new art of selling cars in a digital world


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