The continued rise of e-commerce has had a significant effect on the way people spend their money, but how has it affected car dealers? Certainly, private used car purchases have had a boom from the likes of e-bay, and dealerships are certainly benefiting from an online presence that enables potential customers to search out stock at the click of a mouse.Yet, will there ever come a time when a physical car dealership will become redundant, replaced by a virtual showroom online? Imagine: you search for your model of choice, specifying all your desirables, and in a matter of seconds, you have a list of appropriate vehicles ready for inspection. We’re already there, of course. Nothing new. But what if when you select your vehicle, you are able to inspect it in its entirety, millimetre by millimetre, in a virtual 3D environment where everything looks incredibly real?Of course, it’s questionable whether anything will truly be able to replace sitting in the driver’s seat ready to take it out for a test drive, the aroma of a leather interior pervading the air. Getting excited about actually seeing a car, feeling it, taking it for a test drive – that’s what seals any deal, isn’t it?Could a virtual test drive, like an online video game, replace the traditional method? Maybe not with current technology, but with increasingly more immersive technology on the horizon, we could soon find ourselves examining and even controlling a convincing simulation of our next car.Certainly a future where car dealers employ these types of virtual tours will be able to provide many advantages: indefinite numbers of customers at any given time; minimal staff overheads; vehicles remaining in pristine condition until purchase.We would surely miss the much-maligned salesmen and saleswomen who offer a human face to all our dealings, wouldn’t we? Well, if budget airlines and online shopping are any indication, we seem to be increasingly happy to make our own informed decisions about our purchases without the need for any ‘professional’ opinions. Reviews by the general public have become significant, trusted sources. Pros and cons of the vehicle can be read, discussed and argued about in online forums, meaning that the amount of research and detail an individual wishes to gather before buying is left to themselves, rather than being at the mercy of a sales person who’s primary focus is to make a sale and get their bonus.So the way forward for car dealers is to place the emphasis on allowing the consumer to choose. It may take some time and a great deal of change in attitudes, as many car dealers are stereotypically still seen as being old fashioned. Like all businesses they’ll have to adapt, and quickly, because as always, the future is here, and it’s here now.