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New technology is entering car showrooms (Photo: Audi)

Germany's three premium brands are using digital technology to post higher sales, despite declining showroom traffic.

In interviews with automotiveIT international, the sales and marketing chiefs of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz explained how their companies are catering to a new generation of car buyers, which does its research online and is looking for a physical buying experience that is much changed from the old days of automotive retail.

Still, the premium brands are committed to their physical showrooms. "The dealership remains the backbone of our sales infrastructure," said Ola Kaellenius, head of sales and marketing of Mercedes-Benz and its parent Daimler.

Ian Robertson, who holds the same position at competitor BMW, said digital technologies are increasingly important, but the showroom continues to provide the direct connection to the product. "The test drive is becoming even more important," Robertson said, "and the final decision is made behind the wheel."

Audi's sales and marketing chief, Luca de Meo, drew comparisons with other upmarket brands that benefit from having actual bricks-and-mortar brand stores.. "Look at other industries and big luxury brands such as Gucci, Lousi Vuitton, Apple; they're very much dependent on their physical retail network," he said.

The full story is available in the first 2015 edition of the redesigned automotiveIT international magazine. A complimentary e-book version of the entire magazine is available for a limited time at:  http://automotiveIT.bw-h.de/feb-issue2015