Dealerships

Cadillac Live interactive digital showroom launches in five U.S. states

Buyers are being empowered to change up their shopping habits with the new Cadillac Live interactive digital platform.

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Cars.com research recently revealed that the dealership experience is a major pain point for new car buyers. Automakers are continuously working to enhance that experience and lately there has been a push to revolutionize the sales model with more digital integration.

Cadillac, a division of General Motors, has launched Cadillac Live, a digital shopping platform designed to bring elements of the dealership experience to shoppers' smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. When using Cadillac Live, customers enter a digital showroom via an online portal to view the features and specifications of up to 10 Cadillac models. Once in the system, they can speak with a Live product specialist, who can answer vehicle and purchase-consideration questions.

Cadillac Live Lounge The Cadillac Live Lounge features cars and SUVs from the entire Cadillac passenger vehicle lineup. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

"Luxury consumers are looking for a seamless, one-on-one shopping experience, whether online or in-person," said Melissa Grady, Cadillac chief marketing officer. "Cadillac Live offers a high degree of personal service, with time-saving conveniences and extended hours, reflecting today's evolving shopping habits and our customers' expectations."

The move to digital is a logical one for Cadillac. Data from Google shows that twice as many car buyers start their research online versus at the dealership.

Cadillac Live Agent A Cadillac Live agent helps shoppers explore new vehicles. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Customers are able to do everything but test drive and pull the trigger on buying a new vehicle via Cadillac Live. Here's how Cadillac says it works:

Shoppers can explore every detail of a Cadillac vehicle with the help of a Live agent, who is equipped with an iPhone X, Osmo Mobile gimbal and Bluetooth headset, providing two-way audio and one-way live video. That means shoppers can hear and see the agent, while the agent can hear – but not see – the shopper. The agents are also equipped with a digital interface to share color, wheel and accessory choices. Live agent sessions are available on-demand or can be scheduled for a future date. Additionally, shoppers can invite a partner to join a Live session.

As Cadillac struggles to remain a relevant brand for buyers, the implementation of a less confrontational shopping experience via a device that can be used at the convenience of the customer is an intriguing move that may pay off. Seventy-one percent of customers report switching to a competitor's product after finding their selection process easier according to the 2017 Cassandra Shop Report, which specifically focuses on millennial and Gen Y buyers.

The pilot program is available in five states: California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas. Every dealership in each of those states was offered the opportunity to take part in the program with 160 opting in. Of that 160, 38 of those dealers are based in Texas.

Cadillac Live Lounge Agent Shoppers can ask questions in real time. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Cadillac Live agents are available to connect with shoppers Monday-Thursday, from 9 a.m.-1 a.m. ET, Friday, from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. ET, and Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. ET. Customers can schedule future sessions with a Live agent during off-hours.

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The Nissan Foundation has

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Foundation has announced a new round of grants to nonprofit organizations. The 27 organizations that benefit from the grants are located in the Southern California, Tennessee, Central Mississippi, Eastern Michigan and the New York and Atlanta metro areas.

Over its 28-year history, the Nissan Foundation has awarded more than $12 million to approximately 150 organizations that offer educational programs that inform, inspire and celebrate diversity among the various racial, ethnic and cultural groups that make up society.

The Nissan Foundation Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

"The Nissan Foundation's singular focus from day one has been to stimulate dialogue around race relations and cultural diversity and to support organizations celebrating our differences while reminding us of our similarities," said Nissan Foundation President Travis Parman. "Our 2020 grantees have been engaging in this important, difficult, and often uncomfortable, work for many years. It's our honor and privilege to recognize and amplify their efforts."

Since it was founded in 1992, the mission of the Nissan Foundation was been "to build community by valuing culture diversity", according to a release. The Foundation was founded in response to the civil unrest that occurred near Nissan North America's then-U.S. sales operations in Southern California following the Rodney King trial verdict.

The list of 2020 grant recipients includes:

The Nissan Foundation will begin accepting letters of intent for the 2021 grant cycle in mid-October with a submission deadline of November 16. Applicants must be based in California, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee, or Texas.

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The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has been completely redesigned for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid isn't going to make any headlines for its sexy looks, rugged prowess, or zero to 60 mph time. It doesn't have to. While the Toyota Supra, Ford Bronco, and Ferrari SF90 Stradale dominate that conversation, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid goes about its day.

It doesn't have time to stop and check out the other models. It's too busy solidly doing its job, just like it has been for the last two decades. And there's nothing wrong with that.

It's precisely that premise that carries over from the last-generation Highlander Hybrid to the new one. Redesigned for 2020, the model isn't revolutionary in the way that the new Ram 1500 was when it debuted. Instead, it's a thoughtful improvement.

2020 Toyota Highalnder Hybrid The Highlander Hybrid is fuel-efficient and can lug around three rows of passengers.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid shines in its practicality, continuing to move the midsize SUV story along in (mostly) all the right ways.

Like many things that Toyota has done with its vehicles over the last decade, the Highlander Hybrid hits that sweet spot blending the expectations of buyers with the modern technology that they may not have even known that they wanted.

The three-row SUV's hybrid 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 243 horsepower and is just powerful enough to get you through your drive with ease. The SUV achieves over 600 miles of range, which is fantastic for road trips.

There's an EV mode in the hybrid that gets you going out of parking lots and driveways with little exterior noise. However, the SUV's passengers can hear wind noise against the windshield – something that only goes to prove just how comparatively quiet an electric vehicle is.

2020 Toyota Highalnder Hybrid Steering the Highlander Hybrid is easy and it comes equipped with a boatload of standard safety technology.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Driving the Highlander, which came equipped with all-wheel drive, in mixed conditions resulted in right around 33 mpg. That's not bad considering the week included short trips for groceries, running the air conditioning at full blast most of the time, and keeping up with traffic off the line. It's rated at 35 mpg combined by the EPA. It's not uncommon for real life driving to be slightly lower than expectation.

The SUV is fantastically easy to maneuver, and the wheel feels good in-hand. Multi-view parking cameras make fitting into and out of a parking spot a breeze, which is good because rearward visibility through the glass isn't great.

The Highlander Hybrid is comfortable in every row. Adults can easily fit in the first two for extended periods of time. There's gobs of small item storage space providing perfect opportunity to keep your car plenty cluttered if you'd like.

The peanut butter and jelly-colored interior in the Highlander Hybrid tester isn't a favorite and there are some less-than-premium materials in the premium-priced model but the overall design is attractive.

2020 Toyota Highalnder Hybrid The large 12.3-inch infotainment screen dominates the dashboard in higher trim levels.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Its large 12.3-inch infotainment screen on the tester isn't the most pleasing to use, but it gets the job done. Use Apple CarPlay and most of your problems in that regard are solved.

Moving the second-row seats is relatively easy but having a permanent cupholder base between captain's chairs, no matter how rugged, is not my favorite design choice. A family's littlest third-row occupants are likely to choose to go this route and there's plenty of space for feet to get stuck and plastic to get scuffed.

The third-row seats go up and down with ease. There's a good amount of cargo room at the back for groceries.

2020 Toyota Highalnder Hybrid Putting down the second- and third-row seats for storage is an easy endeavor.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

A flat load floor is something minivan owners rave about. Personally, I prefer foot wells in the second row, which provide more contained storage solutions for when you pop out to the store and don't need/want to store in the cargo area. They also provide a divider between second-row passengers leading children kicking each other less.

The three-row SUV isn't revolutionary. It never had to be. What it is, is very good, especially compared to the Honda Pilot. The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid should be on your test drive list for the very reason that it makes life with a family easier.a

But (and this is a big but) it is pricey. The Highlander Hybrid can cost over $50,000 in its highest trim (the cheapest is $38,200). The Highlander's hottest competition, the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, aren't nearly that expensive, but they also don't come with hybrid variants.

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