Amazon’s Prime Now delivery service brings Prime members in selected urban areas everything from groceries to underwear within two hours. Later this month, an even more select group of those members can also test-drive the new Volkswagen SUV. Volkswagen and Amazon.com have partnered to offer on-demand drives of the 2018 VW Atlas SEL Premium, but only in Los Angeles and Chicago and just for two weekends: September 22–24 and September 29–October 1.
Prime Now shoppers in those cities can sign up for one of a limited number of home-based drives. A “VW Atlas expert” will accompany the Atlas to facilitate a test drive that will last 45 minutes to an hour. Afterward, test drivers will be encouraged to review both the Atlas and the overall on-demand test-driving experience.
“We know people have limited time and are always looking for convenient ways to test out a new product, and with the Amazon Prime Now service we are able to bring the all-new Atlas to customers’ doorsteps,” Greg Tebbutt, Volkswagen of America’s senior director of transformation, strategy and communications, said in a release.
Amazon’s Prime Now is currently operating in 32 cities, but Prime users elsewhere can sign up to be notified when their area is added, so expansion is coming. In the areas in which it is available, two-hour delivery is free, and, in certain locales, one-hour delivery is offered for $7.99. Amazon Prime Now members who request the VW Atlas test drive and are outside the program’s coverage area will be directed to VW’s own website to schedule a test drive at a nearby dealership instead.
Volkswagen’s three-row Atlas SUV is a long-awaited addition to its still-limited SUV lineup and a key part of its growth strategy for the U.S. market. This Volkswagen/Amazon partnership is not a first for on-demand test drives. Last year, Amazon Prime Now and Hyundai collaborated for a campaign called “Prime Now. Drive Now.” That program put people in the Los Angeles area into the seat of a 2017 Elantra during two weekends in August 2016.
Back in 2013, a startup called Tred got $1.7 million in seed funding in what was intended to make it a test-driving equivalent to Uber. The company gave that a go until 2014, when it stopped because of the high cost of partnering with dealerships to offer multiple test drives only to find a lower-than-hoped-for conversion rate of people buying the cars. Company co-founder and CEO Grant Feek told Car and Driver the company has since pivoted its model toward helping car buyers and sellers connect online. While on-demand test drives for dealerships may not have made sense, Feek commented, “I think partnering with OEMs is a great way to do it.”