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Tokyo show goers show that Nissan will soon be like Maserati

Nissan featured a system powered by Oculus in their booth at the Tokyo Motor Show in which visitors could take either of the IDx concept cars and completely personalize them in what Nissan calls the beginnings of the "co-creation process." This is the future of car buying.


Nissan says that over a hundred Nissan IDx virtual reality concept cars were built in their co-creation booth at the Tokyo Motor Show. Users chose either the IDx Freeflow convertible or the IDx NISMO sports coupe and then customized from there using options and capabilities in the immersive virtual reality system produced by AKQA and Oculus.

The results are as varied as the people who tried the system (the photo above is one booth goer's interpretation of the NISMO) and may be a glimpse into what automotive design and purchasing could be in the future.

Today, the typical car buyer does a little research online, then heads to a dealership to test drive a short list of potential vehicles to buy. Once a choice is made, a couple of pre-packaged options are offered - often based on what the dealer has on their lot at the time - and a deal is struck and the new car owner drives home.

Nissan says that in the near future, that could all change. Dealerships are already beginning to transition into delivery depots and service centers rather than a place to go to purchase a car. More and more, buyers are selecting a car online and sometimes they're even going through much of the buying process on the Internet as well. The dealership has become a formality for many of today's car buyers.

Often, car buyers are even ordering specifically-packaged cars that the dealership may not have on the lot, but can get within a few days.

Bespoke purchases - vehicles at the very high end with a lot of customization options - have been conducted this way for decades. A car buyer goes to the dealership of, say, Maserati or Bentley, test drives a car or two, then sits down with a sales specialist (often called by titles like "consultant") to build a customized version of the car they want. This is then built at the factory to those specs and hand delivered to the customer when ready.

Nissan sees that as being the future of nearly all car sales, not just high-end ultra-expensive rides. With technology like that being tested in the virtual reality booth at Tokyo, they think they're on the way towards making that less virtual and more reality.

Is custom car buying at the level of a Maserati in the very near future for Nissan? Probably not. Within the next decade? Probably.

At the very least, it's a neat gizmo for now. Commenting on Nissan IDx, Nissan's global head of digital strategy, DeLu Jackson, said: "At Nissan we are always looking for the most innovative and engaging ways of delighting our customers. From the external design of our vehicles to the quality and feel of the materials within, to the technology we use to enhance the driving experience, innovation is what drives us. Our presence at motor shows and customer-facing forums is no different; we want to use groundbreaking technologies innovatively to delight existing and new customers of our brand."

Whatever you think of the idea, it's definitely coming. At this point, Nissan says, they'll be using the input they gained at the Tokyo show to refine the experience for future shows. This, in turn, will mean more customized vehicles from Nissan booth goers and that can help shape how the company designs cars in the now. Down the road, it could also mean better user interfaces for a future customization process online for the car buyer.

Hey, it's virtual reality. Even the sky isn't a limit.