IT'S NO surprise to hear that car retailers across the country are strapping themselves in for some radical changes over the next few years.
The advent of virtual reality technology is set to transform the relationship between manufacturer, dealer and consumer - with unprecedented access to information on vehicles that are yet to touch down in Australia.
While some are probably dreading that change, there's a long-standing Ipswich institution that has decided to lead the way.
Llewellyn Motors planted the seed for a new way of introducing customers to vehicles yet to be delivered, and thanks to Fire Station 101, that idea has been turned into virtual reality.
Llewellyn Motors general manager James Sturges said the virtual reality program created in consultation with Fire Station 101 techno-head Lex van Cooten was the first of its kind, and probably a sign of things to come for the automotive industry.
In essence, the virtual reality Hyundai i30 test drive simulator allows the customer to sit inside the new model and view in almost life-like detail the interior, exterior, and safety features of the car, which is yet to be delivered to Australia's Hyundai dealers.
"We see a few different uses for this technology," Mr Sturges said.
"Firstly it can be used in the dealership, but we also have some big fleet customers and what this will enable us to do is bring the new models straight to our customers, simply by taking the head set to their office."
Deputy Mayor Paul Tully was the first person to officially test-drive the technology at Fire Station 101 on Friday.
With the movement of a handset and a bit of twisting and turning Cr Tully was easily able to navigate the program.
Developer Lex van Cooten said the Hyundai virtual test drive was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what was possible.
"I think this is definitely the way of the future, and it's still early days," he said.
"For now it's a bit clunky and you can interact on a certain level, but already we are working on technology that allows us to track the driver's seat in virtual reality, so that you can reach out and actually feel the seat with your hand.
"There's also eye tracking technology that gives us the ability to track where the user's eyes are looking. For the manufacturer, this enables them to track how the user interacts with the vehicle's controls and understand how to make them more user-friendly."
So is it time for car salesmen to start worrying about the future?
Motor Trades Association of Queensland CEO Brett Dale said dealerships were already preparing themselves for big changes.
"There is going to be a massive degree of disruption to our industry as a result, but we see this as an opportunity to get dealers to respond to change," he said.
"I think everyone is worried but there's also lots of optimism. Business may be lost, but I believe other business will be gained."