Honda & Volvo's immersive auto experiences without the high tech

by: Lucinda Southern on 05 March 2015

Cases from Honda and Volvo show that the barriers for entry are relatively low for automakers to offer some form of test drive experience, as long as wowing the audience isn’t the main priority

For some time a handful of car brands have demonstrated that they sit at the forefront of digital innovation; Audi, Mercedes and BMW have been at the top of the pile when it comes to pushing forward digital integration and connectivity, while Nissan’s work with wearables and defence of its tagline, ‘Innovation that excites’, has also kept it front of mind in these stakes.

In terms of converting sales though, other automakers are using technology at a more rudimentary level to offer potential buyers examples of how the car handles.

Honda for instance has launched a campaign for the Geneva Motor Show with Lost Boys, part of DigitasLBi, and B-Reel. An immersive booth aiming to give people the experience of what it’s like to drive the Honda Civic Type R, was built in London before being transported to Switzerland.

It simulates the auto experience, but the companies’ execution is more on the nostalgic side of the spectrum, by taking a leaf blower and using it to recreate the effects of wind gusts felt when driving the car. Likewise, the LED lighting rigs, audio and video playback used to complete the experience are all controlled using Arduino.

Rather than offer lifelike experiences for potential buyers - a tactic that has worked well for automaker Audi in the past who have converted prospects into sales through buyers trying out the Oculus Rift virtual reality experience – Honda’s focus here was creating shareable content. The #RaceFace videos are filmed in slow motion to capture the best speed selfie people to share socially.

Continuing in this theme, Volvo is using Google Cardboard, the latter’s inexpensive solution to offering virtual reality experiences to anyone with a smartphone, to let people virtually test drive the Volvo XC90, (see video).

While test drives will remain an integral part of the auto purchase journey in most cases, Honda and Volvo are proving that creating the immersive experiences for people doesn't always require high-end technology.