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SUBARU Australia has ruled out an agency model – where the factory controls and distributes cars according to dealer orders – but managing director Colin Christie believes in the future of online as an important part of the brand’s sales program.

“Our dealer network is an integral part of what we do and they are actively involved in future plans and product,” Mr Christie said.

“Their work is absolutely essential to that. It’s how we get to deliver our experience to our customers.

“We are very open to our network about our approach to online. Our approach is to give the customers all the options so they can interact if they want to buy a car online.

“If they want a car delivered to them, we can do that; if they want a car for test drive at their house, we can do that; if they want mobile servicing, we can do that.

“If they want to come in and experience the brand in a different way through our new showroom experience or they want to visit a pop-up store or a shopping centre store, they can.

“Our whole objective is to basically build an omni-channel infrastructure that allows customers to experience us, however they want to choose.”

Mr Christie told GoAutoNews Premium that “the showrooms and the service facilities and the humanisation of the interaction are still – for a long, long time – central to our experience”.

Colin Christie

“We are a human brand,” he said.

The unfolding of a bricks-and-mortar dealership with the omni-channel plan envisaged by Mr Christie and Subaru Australia is already on a new path.

“We are going through a process now where we are using our (Subaru-owned) Subaru Melbourne dealer as a testbed to create an omni-channel digital platform which allows a customer to interact more directly with the dealer,” he said.

“That was a precursor to learning more about using digital platforms to benefit the customer and dealer relationship.

“The new digital platform is not ready yet but we are already planning to build another version to allow things like online trading valuations, finance work and so on. All this will be available through our dealer network.”

Mr Christie said that online sales equated to about 20 sales a month for the brand, “maybe a bit less”.

“The whole point for us (is) to test to create an end-to-end transaction process online. It also gives customers the option to engage with us through the internet, if they wish.”

He said that all the things being done were seen as being a step forward in the journey to improve services.

By Neil Dowling