Volkswagen Designed a Tiny Model of a Dealership to Promote its AR Showroom

The automaker is the latest brand to turn to AR shopping experiences amid the pandemic

Volkswagen's tiny replica of a dealership on a beach
The AR tools promoted in Volkswagen’s latest campaign allow consumers to virtually kick the tires from the automaker's new line of smaller SUVs. Volkswagen

Volkswagen has shrunk its dealership experience into a model less than a foot tall in an effort to show off its new virtual showroom tools.

The automaker and agency DDB Sydney placed a miniaturized exact replica of a Volkswagen lot—complete with tiny plant beds and glass floor-to-ceiling windows—in Sydney’s central business district this week with QR codes on the side that prompted passersby to try out the car brand’s new augmented reality experience.

The AR tools promoted in the campaign allow consumers to virtually kick the tires of Volkswagen’s new line of smaller SUVs. Users can view the interior and exterior of the vehicles, turn on the lights and open the doors, all through 3D graphics superimposed through their phone cameras.

The offering comes as Covid-19 lockdowns have led clothing retailers and fellow automakers, to tap AR tech as an alternative way for consumers to try out their products. Ford also launched its own series of AR showroom features on Instagram last month as a way to show off its new electric Mustang.

While brands have historically had a hard time enticing consumers to shop for big-ticket items like cars online, Volkswagen says the pandemic has helped to change that. Volkswagen Australia has managed to sell 460 cars online since April—a $36 million value. The automaker also said its website traffic hit a record high in 2020, which is up 18% from last year.

“While many people wouldn’t think that Aussies are prepared to buy a car online, the success of our online store proves they’re embracing online shopping for essentials and big-ticket items,” Volkswagen chief customer and marketing officer Jason Bradshaw said in a statement. “The launch of Volkswagen’s smallest dealership and AR experience is all about making buying a car online easier and more convenient so Aussies can find, test out and then customize the perfect car.”

A recent report from research firm eMarketer found that AR has surged in popularity as a marketing tool during the pandemic as brands have latched onto the technology as a way to replace physical engagement and activations. Easy-to-use tools in social platforms—particularly Snapchat—have set the stage for the trend, in addition to app developer kits from phone companies like Apple.

Bradshaw said Volkswagen’s AR plans likely won’t end as the pandemic wanes. The company plans to continually add more of its models to the AR lineup.

“This is just the first phase of the AR,” Bradshaw said. “We’re continually looking for ways to enhance our customers shopping experiences and are excited to be able to give Australians the opportunity to ‘try on’ our latest range of small SUVs in their own time, on their own driveway, to help them feel confident that they have found the right car for them with a brand they know and trust. “

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.