The red-carpet treatment at the car dealer

5/30/2018 9:04:11 AM

As frequent readers of this blog know, I have a soft spot for the service-minded Taiwan salesman and woman. Good service is key in Taipei and businesses go out of their way to please customers. Or, even more so, future customers. Car dealerships are very good at striking the right key in their red carpet treatment. The crisis years in the car industry are definitely over.

An ordinary Saturday afternoon in Taipei. A family of grandparents, parents and kids is having a lazy afternoon, having lunch in what looks like a large glass-and-steel restaurant. An upscale place that serves pasta and wine and boasts a gigantic Italian espresso machine. The host, the waiters, the chef and the barista: the employees of this restaurant will do anything to please their customers.

A car showroom with a restaurant

But in fact, this is not a restaurant. And the guests are not customers, not yet. They are having fun and spending their time in a nice way, while the dad of the family is trying to figure out what Lexus he will buy. Yes, this is the showroom of a well-known international car brand. What you see here is a typical red-carpet treatment, where buying a car is turned into a pleasurable experience for the whole family, including ice-cream for dessert.

Lexus’ approach is pampering guests and customers with food and drinks. If my car needs a rear light change, I sit down and have cappuccino served to me before I can even say the word. Food, beverages, wifi and soft fauteuils are part of the same experience.

Buying a car in Taiwan is intended to be an experience, a fun event. Even the local Taiwan car brand Luxgen – prices start at €15.000 – knows that pleasing the customer and his family is the shortest way to his wallet.

A test drive

For some things, you may not even need to go the dealership at all. In large east coast China cities and in Taipei, you don’t call or visit the showroom for a test drive. Many brands offer smartphone apps for this service. Log in, ask for a test drive and the dealer will have your favorite car delivered. “Here are the keys, Sir. Enjoy your test drive”, the employee will say. By, the way, don’t limit the drive to a trip around the block. Most car dealers won’t blink their eyes when you call them after an intense three-hours’ drive into the interior of Taiwan. Anything to please the customer.

Some brands go to great lengths with this service. A friend of mine was thinking of buying a new Porsche. He was sure about the type and the accessories, but he could not decide about the color: the midnight blue or the red orange? “No problem”, the dealer said, when confronted with the doubts. The next morning, employees of the dealership parked two Porsches – one midnight blue, one red orange – in front of my friend’s house. Pick-up was planned for the end of the afternoon.

L of location

Other than the P of Product and of Price, there is the L of Location. In a clever move that brings the brand right where it needs to be, Tesla rented a ground floor showroom in an up-market shopping area. You can actually see people come out of the neighboring Dolce and Gabbana store and step right into the car dealership.

Mentioning Tesla, I have to correct myself. Two years ago, it did not look like the electric car hausse in Europe and the US was never going to happen in Taiwan. This week, I noticed at least three new car battery loading stations in the garage in my Taipei apartment buildings. The same goes for busy streets in downtown Taipei. The electric car, more specifically the Tesla and the cheaper EV-powered cars are becoming ‘en vogue’. It took a while, probably because gas Taiwan is still about half price in Europe.

One more thing. The friend who was offered two test drive Porsches, just to try which color felt right for his next car? He bought the blue one. He already had a Porsche 911 in his garage…

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