Car screenings

Would you buy a used car from this kiosk? Clifford German on an alternative to salesmen
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The Independent Online
Would you buy a used car from a television screen equipped with a touch-pad housed in a nine-foot high blue kiosk? That is the question to which sponsors Camden Motors, Churchill Insurance, Olivetti and motor manufacturers Rover and Nissan are seeking an answer when they launch trials next week at eight sites in Nottingham and Slough.

At a touch on the screen the Auto-Select kiosk will start to provide information on new and used car prices throughout the UK, an estimated part-exchange value for existing vehicles, the availability and cost of finance.

It will also provide a printed insurance estimate and arrange a test drive. The voice of actor James Bolam provides step by step instructions on how to access the sections by touching selected boxes on the screen display, and the whole procedure takes three or four minutes.

Auto-Select is the brainchild of John Bacon, an executive director of Camden Motors, which is owned by Barclays Bank. He believes that most people are confused by the sheer choice of makes and models available in the UK, intimidated by car salesmen and reluctant to expose their ignorance.

"Add to this the options on extras, differing part-exchange values and a vast array of finance packages, and there is little doubt why customers are confused, he claims.

As a result many people have to make up their minds before they enter the showroom and do not have access to all the facts and options available, or the opportunity to "browse" before buying.

The insurance quote takes customers through half a dozen sequences starting off with a question as to the approximate age of the car required, which brings up information on 24 makes and 250 models covering an estimated 95 per cent of all vehicles which were available at the time.

After selecting a particular model the customer is asked for information on his or her age, address and postcode, and the value of the car.

A quick calculation generates a printed quote, which is not final, but gives a rough guide to the likely cost of insurance cover. If the answer is not satisfactory it is the work of a moment to thumb back through the questionnaire and select a different option until a realistic quote is obtained on a car which suits the customer's tastes and pocket.

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