WheelsTV Offers Video Showroom; Porsche’s ‘Offer’

A VIRTUAL TEST DRIVE: Wheels TV has videoed just about every car you might want to test drive. You can now do it online, as seen on the website of Acton Toyota of Littleton.
A VIRTUAL TEST DRIVE: Wheels TV has videoed just about every car you might want to test drive. You can now do it online, as seen on the website of Acton Toyota of Littleton. –WHEELS TV

What exactly do you folks do? That’s a question I always wanted to ask our New England Motor Press Association colleagues at WheelsTV.

They’re always shooting extensive video of new cars. They’ve got cameras on chase cars and lead cars. They’ve got other cameras (GoPros) attached to the cars being featured. They’ve got a camera slider, a camera on a sliding track that makes it looks as though you’re riding alongside the test car.

For the last couple of years, they’ve also been experimenting with drones and will soon figure out a way to incorporate those images into their videos.

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It turns out they’ve been diligently compiling all that video into virtual test drives at their sites in Acton, Los Angeles, and upstate New York—more than 2,500 of them since 2008.

“We’ve got virtually every popular light vehicle in the system,’’ says WheelsTV CEO Jim Barisano.

Now WheelsTV is marketing the “Dealer Video Showroom’’ (DVS) to auto dealers’ websites with 50 signed up already and a goal of increasing that number a hundredfold.

“We launched the system a year ago in May,’’ says Barisano, “and we’ve been fine-tuning it ever since. It now seamlessly integrates into any dealer website. If you click on any car in their inventory, new or used, the video of that model pops up instantly.’’

Each video has a row of buttons on the right side, allowing a viewer to click immediately to sections such as What’s New, Exterior, Interior, Power, Fuel Economy, Safety, Warranty, and Summary.

“Some viewers look at the video in sequence,’’ says Barisano, “but others look at fuel economy first, or at safety features, and then there are the performance shoppers who start with the power trains.’’

More tweaking of the system is coming.

“Soon you’ll be able to see the car in all available colors,’’ he says, “and likely do a split screen comparison of two vehicles.’’

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And, like most video these days, it’s available for mobile applications.

“We envision putting a QR (Quick Response) code on stickers on a lot,’’ says Barisano. “Scan that with your mobile device and the video will play.’’

Barisano’s studies show that 84 percent of new car buyers have watched some video, important to the auto industry where generating solid online leads gives salesmen an edge.

“[DVS] is an excellent tool for our sales people,’’ says Brian Loiseau, GM of Acton Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram. “It’s a very nice way of engaging our customers, letting them see the car in action … Of the Internet leads one recent week, seven had used the DVS. Three of them came into the showroom and all bought.’’

“We know DVS makes the job of researching easier,’’ says Barisano. “It also starts a relationship between the dealer and consumer.’’

Sort of like on-line dating.

Test Drive, Porsche-Style

Porsche is opening a $100 million combination US Headquarters and “customer experience center’’ near Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport.

“Dealers aren’t just selling products, they’re selling an experience,’’ says Detlev von Platen, CEO of Porsche Cars North America.

The center has a 1.6-mile test track—now that’s a test drive!—and various offshoots including a handling circuit, off-road area, and skid pad.

Porsche expects 30,000 visitors annually and customers can even arrange to have a new car delivered at the facility—for an added charge, of course. Test drives can run between $300-$750.

Double Feature

Cruise Nights have a familiar routine—a DJ, raffles, vendors offering different products, and a variety of cars on display.

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The Phantom Gourmet’s Andelman Brothers—Dave, Mike, and Dan—are putting a new spin on a bi-weekly Cruise Night at their Mendon Twin Drive-In, which starts this Thursday, June 18, from 5-7.

Parking clearly is no problem, and the concession stands will be open at the drive-in, which dates back to 1954.

But the added come-on is that the participants can stay for the double-feature for $25 for a carload. That’s a good case for loading the family into one of those massive old station wagons for the evening.

It’s a busy week for the Andelmans as the family’s “Hot Dog Safari’’ tradition, which dates to 1989, continues this Saturday, June 20, from noon-4 p.m. on Lansdowne Street behind Fenway Park. The Red Sox are playing in Kansas City that night.

Etc.

Today, is a big day for shows. Among the events are Corvette Day (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) at Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline and the 22d annual Tulley show at Anheuser-Busch in Merrimack, New Hampshire, (8 a.m.-3 p.m.) featuring Buicks, Pontiacs, and GMC … A new show on the circuit runs today (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) at Essex Tech on Rte. 62 at the Danvers-Middleton line. Besides hot rods, antiques, and special interest vehicles, spectators will be able to tour the school’s auto technology and collision shops. The school’s culinary department will be running the food concession … This Friday, Byfield (part of Newbury) holds its annual downtown cruise night from 4-8 p.m. It’s just off the Central Street exit on Rte. 95 in Newbury … Next Saturday, the American Hellenic Educational Assn. holds its 2d annual show at 54 South Common St. in Lynn from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. As an attraction, you can have your car photographed for a calendar … Larz Anderson hosts German Car Day next Sunday, June 21, as a Father’s Day celebration from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

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