Imagine a future where car dealerships place you, the customer, in control.
Where sales targets slip down the priority list and are overtaken by experience, satisfaction and honesty. Sounds like the stuff of pure fantasy, right?
“We think we can turn the industry on its head with this plan,” explains Rockar boss and founder Simon Dixon. “Rockar doesn’t chase sales targets; we believe customers will buy from us if they enjoy the experience.”
Rockar has stores in the south of England with Hyundai. The stores bear more resemblance to Apple stores than car dealerships, with two or three car models on display and a selection of touchscreen computers connected to Rockar’s website. Dixon is confident this set-up previews the future of dealerships.
“The current system is outdated,” he explains. “For example, 75% of women feel intimated in [conventional] car dealerships. Who would build a business model where this number is considered the norm?”
Conversely, 70% of Rockar’s employees are women, and a large proportion work part-time. “Employing women was not a target,” Dixon adds. “We just want people with great personalities and a great retention of knowledge. It just so happens nearly three-quarters of ours are female.”
Contrast this to regular dealerships, where male-dominated workforces work full-time hours, and Rockar’s layout looks like a polar opposite.
Probably the biggest contrast comes with the skill set of Rockar’s employees. They aren’t sales people; instead, they’re trained purely to be experts in their field. At Hyundai’s dealerships, the field is the brand's model line-up, including extra features and customisation options.
“Our employees aren’t paid commission for sales, as their job is to empower the customer with the knowledge they want, rather than to hard sell,” continues Dixon. “The customer might only be supported by people in the shop about the product, supported through the journey of speccing a car so they know all the facts.”
Dixon reveals that more than half of his company’s sales come from women and 60% of purchases are made outside of stores, when customers return home and venture online after having had a positive experience in a shop. His claims of customer satisfaction are backed up by a near clean sweep of five-star feedback ratings on Hyundai’s Dartford Rockar store website. Only a couple of 4.5/5 ratings keep the store from achieving 100%.
Right now, Rockar’s biggest partner is Hyundai. “They were the first people that really got behind the product and supported it,” explains Dixon. But more partners look to be on the way soon.
On the evidence of its first two years in action, Rockar isn’t just a growing business; it’s also confirmation that this new idea works. Just months after the first stores opened in 2014, the Rockar sites were among Hyundai’s most successful dealerships. Hyundai’s average customer age was around 57 years old, but the average age of a Rockar store buyer was closer to 34.
Rockar has therefore proved that trading sales targets for customer experience can really work. The question is, how long will it take for the rest of the industry to catch up?