An interactive virtual world on the internet is offering fleet managers new ways of assessing new car models before they make purchasing decisions.
Toyota, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, BMW, Pontiac, Citroën, Mercedes-Benz and Mazda have all set up virtual showrooms on the Second Life system.
Developed by San Francisco-based Linden Research, Second Life enables users to interact with each other through virtual personal representations called 'avatars', which can teleport around the system.
Fleet managers can use the system to check the images of new models, but unlike usual online sites, they can also test drive virtual representations of new cars.
Fleet News sent a virtual reporter – James T. Juno – the editor of the virtual world’s sl-newspaper.com to check Nissan’s showroom.
He said: “A resident could obtain his own Altima to test drive around the virtual race track.
"A huge loop the loop nearby offered a fun challenge even for the experienced driver.”
Mr Juno said Second Life is an ideal environment to target brand wary members.
“Using Second Life gives buyers a unique insight that cannot be achieved with any other method,” he said.
Users’ avatars can also socialise with other potential buyers and look for informal feedback.
Although no virtual salesmen were waiting at the Nissan site, information was provided by way of posters and digital note-cards showing details of the new model and leading to the Nissan website, which noted that the three dimensional Nissan image “aimed for a lifelike representation of the product”, with “even the interior is rendered in true-to-life detail”.
Mr Juno said: “To an extent it's the same as browsing the internet for information on cars, but its much more fun and relaxed.”
For example, the Mazda showroom is an island, set on a tropical paradise, allowing users who follow a series of instructions to test drive new models along a winding road near palm fringed beaches.
If you to take a virtual test drive go to: http://secondlife.com