More than three-quarters (76%) of car buyers still consider showroom visits an essential part of their purchasing decision, despite a growing digital trend in the automotive industry, according to recent research by Omoda.

The research commissioned by Omoda has highlighted the enduring relevance of physical showrooms in the car buying process.

The report revealed that test drives remain one of the key features for buyers, with 64% of buyers desiring a hands-on experience with the vehicle before purchase.

The study also revealed that 43% of UK car buyers prioritise sales staff with in-depth knowledge, particularly when considering electric vehicles (EVs).

Furthermore, 24% of respondents emphasised the importance of discussing local charging infrastructure with an expert.

However, 61% of the respondents said pressure from sales staff in the showrooms was their top dislike, followed by feeling rushed at 47% and encountering hidden costs at 46%.

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Looking ahead, around 40% of those surveyed expressed interest in virtual test drives being available in showrooms.

Additionally, more than half (52%) of the respondents said that they would like to see interactive digital displays and 48% were in favour of tech support areas.

The concept of AI or robot sales assistants interested over 22% of the respondents while 60% saw the benefit of in-showroom training on car technology.

Interestingly, the research also found that 20% of UK car buyers would place their trust in a virtual test drive.

Omoda highlighted that when it comes to preferred virtual test drive environments, 72% opted for off-road, 65% on a racetrack, and 48% along a beach. Approximately 14% of respondents even expressed a desire to test drive a car on Mars.

Omoda & Jaecoo UK executive vice president Victor Zhang said: “Our 2035 future showroom will be an experiential hub offering immersive, customised and fun customer journeys.

“The showroom isn’t just transactional, it’s a place for customers to learn about the vehicle in a way that suits them. With our vehicles offering an increasing amount of technology, education is a huge part of the retail experience.”