Features

Is Hyundai Rockar the future of car sales?

A car dealership with no sales staff? Hyundai's Rockar store concept aims to revolutionise car buying

This doesn’t seem like the best way to sell cars: just three models on display in a bustling shopping centre retail unit sandwiched between the Body Shop and the Disney Store, with no salesmen and barely any staff from a motoring background... 

However, the people behind the Hyundai Rockar store in Bluewater, Kent, think this is the way we could all be buying cars soon. And with such a bold claim, Auto Express went behind the scenes at the new venture to see just how it will work.

Opinion: car buying hasn't changed much in 50 years, until now

The idea is the brainchild of Simon Dixon, who once owned online car leasing company jamjar.co.uk as well as conventional dealership Dixon Motors. After leaving the industry, Simon returned to buy new cars as a customer, and didn’t enjoy the experience. “I was so frustrated with the whole thing,” Simon says. “When you speak to people about buying a car they usually have a bad story about a poor salesman, or where they’ve been patronised by the salesman.

“With Rockar we’re challenging every aspect of car buying. We’re putting the customer in control.” And the early signs are that it’s working. 

Three cars have been delivered and 3,500 visitors have been through the door since it opened three weeks ago. A customer can go from entering the store to buying a car in three minutes, and Hyundai expects Rockar to be in the top 10 UK dealerships, for sales, by the end of 2015.

• Best new car deals 2014

Hyundai Rockar part-exchange valuations by customers

Unlike other online car retailers, Rockar also works out the price for a part-exchange, using information from the customer on mileage, make and model. “Customers judge what state their car is in,” Paul Stokes, managing director tells us. “If a car comes in that doesn’t quite match what they described, then we try to reason with them that this isn’t the case.” 

Test drives are taken care of with the Experience centre – a separate smaller store located in the shopping centre car park – and can be booked at the Rockar store or online. “They can even go for an unaccompanied test drive,” Paul explains. “They can have that experience themselves, there’s no pressure. At the consumer groups that we did, the majority said that they felt that the test drive process was too pressured.”

In the first week the  store was open there were 40 test drives booked. The Experience centre also deals with aftermarket care, with owners able to bring their car to the shopping centre to get it serviced. They just have to book a time, drop their car off, go shopping for a couple of hours, and it will be ready to pick up.

Hyundai Rockar: 'Angels' not salespeople

One of the most important factors of the store is the staff. Dubbed Angels, they’re similar to the Genius staff found in Apple stores, although they’re not just there to show how things work – the Angels will see you through the whole sales process. Interestingly, what’s important to Simon and Paul is that none of the Angels comes from a motoring background. 

One of the Angels we meet is Charlotte, who has a background in beauty and cosmetics. “I’ve bought new cars before and been through the process, but that’s it,” she tells us. “Being a woman in that situation can be intimidating. Here we can tailorthe experience. I’m really excited about being part of this from the very beginning.”

Other Angels we meet include Naz, who has worked in House of Fraser and admits to having very little car knowledge before working at Rockar. Another is Lewis, a recent graduate with a passing interest in cars who wasn’t sure about the idea to start with, but is now “completely convinced” by it. 

Hyundai Rockar staff from retail rather than automotive background

They’ve all gone through an intensive four-week course to learn all the necessary knowledge, such as the differences in trim levels, engine sizes and key factors for sorting out a finance package.

Simon is delighted to have staff from retail rather than a motoring background. “For us, personality came first,” he says. “The car knowledge we can teach. It’s also key that 13 of the 18 Angels are females, to change that buying experience.”

Whether or not this will become the future of car buying, or whether it’s just another way of going through car sales alongside traditional methods, we’ll have to wait and see. But this is clearly a refreshing approach, and it puts the customer at the forefront of the sales process.

What do you think of Hyundai Rockar? Would you rather buy a car there than at a traditional dealership? Let us know in the comments section below...

Recommended

'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'
Opinion Genesis Hyundai Ioniq
Opinion

'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'

Steve Fowler is impressed by Hyundai's electric cars, its N division and now its luxury Genesis brand
16 Jun 2021
New 2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5: UK prices and specs confirmed
Ioniq 5 - front
Hyundai

New 2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5: UK prices and specs confirmed

Boxy all-electric Ioniq 5 crossover is priced from £36,995 and has a maximum range of 300 miles
7 May 2021
Hyundai’s N division considering hot electric Ioniq model
Ioniq 5 N - front (watermarked)
Hyundai

Hyundai’s N division considering hot electric Ioniq model

Hyundai's performance N division could continue aggressive product rollout with a Skoda Enyaq iV vRS rival
27 Apr 2021
Retro tribute to original Hyundai Pony hatchback unveiled
Hyundai Pony - front
Hyundai

Retro tribute to original Hyundai Pony hatchback unveiled

Hyundai has pinned the Ioniq 5’s design language onto its first production model, the Pony hatchback
16 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e
Fiat 500 vs Honda e vs MINI Electric
Car group tests

Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e

The new Fiat 500, MINI Electric and Honda e are three retro-inspired electric superminis - but which is best?
19 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review
Volkswagen ID.4 GTX
Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review

VW ID.4 EV gets another electric motor and four-wheel drive in hot GTX form
21 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review
Volkswagen Caddy California MPV - front
Volkswagen Caddy

New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review

It’s a family hauler and weekend camper all rolled into one, but is the Volkswagen Caddy California any good?
21 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
New Mercedes C-Class 2021 review
Mercedes C-Class - front
Mercedes C-Class

New Mercedes C-Class 2021 review

The new Mercedes C-Class compact exec gets S-Class-inspired tech and new suspension to challenge the BMW 3 Series
21 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
New 2021 Peugeot 308 SW estate arrives with more space
Peugeot 308 SW - front
News

New 2021 Peugeot 308 SW estate arrives with more space

The Peugeot 308 SW joins the hatchback in the range and arrives with two plug-in hybrid options
22 Jun 2021
'A top footballer works minutes for his car, but the average worker must graft for 12 months'
Opinion - average car
Opinion

'A top footballer works minutes for his car, but the average worker must graft for 12 months'

Mike Rutherford says it's increasingly easy for them, and far harder for us, to earn enough for our new cars
20 Jun 2021