Wheelers: Lebanon’s virtual car showroom An online tool for buyers

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With a plethora of different models on the market these days it is often difficult to make an informed choice about which car to buy. Enter Wheelers, an online platform that helps consumers make better car-purchasing decisions based on their budget, financing options, and lifestyles. Tatiana Hage, who heads the project, explains that buying a car is very much an individual decision and Wheelers makes it easier to sift through the available options to find the right one.

The website features a comprehensive database of automotive brands available in Lebanon. Users can browse cars according to various criteria. For many buyers, budget is the main constraint, while others are looking for a specific body type that suits their lifestyle or personal preference—SUVs, hatchbacks, or convertibles. A new feature that was added in the last few months lets users filter based on how much they can afford to allocate on a down payment, what they can pay monthly, and which bank they prefer to work with, generating a list of car options for their financing capabilities.

Trying to be as user-friendly as possible, the team behind Wheelers also has a tool that lets customers compare up to three models side by side, highlighting similarities in green and differences in red.

For car buyers, the online showroom is a helpful tool. It minimizes the role of salespeople and shifts power to consumers, empowering them so that by the time they enter a physical showroom, they know the right questions to ask that will guide them to the right vehicle.

On the flip side, it can also be helpful for automotive dealers and even banks that offer car loans. While Wheelers, which currently has 100,000 monthly users in Lebanon, is still developing its system, the ultimate idea is to generate a profit from client leads. That means for every serious customer that makes his or her way to a dealer via the website, Wheelers gets a cut. They are currently using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) approach to call potential clients that request test drives and grade them on a scale of how serious they really are about purchasing a car. According to Hage, about 60-70 percent of those who shop on Wheelers are also seeking car financing, so a similar system is being developed for clients sent to banks for loans. The phone call feedback also helps gather information about how dealers can improve their services.

Hage says the site will not offer a peer-to-peer used-car marketplace but they are already developing a section for certified pre-owned cars that are part of most new car dealerships. There are some challenges with updating inventories, as there is a high turnover for these types of cars, but Wheelers facilitates data entry for the dealers and most are cooperating.

Hage explains that the site is currently geared toward the Lebanese market, but they have already begun work in Dubai, and are looking to expand to Saudi Arabia next. “Lebanon has potential but it’s a really small market—approximately 36,000 cars are sold here annually. In the UAE its 260,000 and in Saudi Arabia its 650,000, and especially now that women will have the right to drive, it will increase,” Hage says.

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