Ford opens its first Australian high-tech, state-of-the-art Showroom of the Future – the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and only the third in the world.

Ford Australia says the new technology initiatives will put consumers in control at every point of the purchasing and servicing experience.

Ford and the Bayford Group dealership open the showroom in the Melbourne suburb of Epping after extensive research into the customer sales and service experience and consolidating Bayford’s Coburg and Epping outlets.

The Showroom of the Future concept is the product of Ford’s global interior-refresh program.

At the Australian opening was Elena A. Ford, who leads the automaker’s global dealer and consumer-experience team. It’s tasked with accelerating the simplification and streamlining of Ford’s interaction with customers at dealerships and at automotive and consumer shows around the world.

“Every automaker is striving to unlock long-term customer loyalty, but Ford is focused on connecting with consumers on their terms and building an experience they will love, regardless of where they meet us,” she says in a statement.

Ford hired Fitch Design, known for its work on Nike and Apple stores, reviewed current showrooms and conducted 62 dealer interviews globally to capture the heritage aspect and community feel of the Ford brand.

The new interior and exterior concept will become a worldwide standard, while for now Epping customers will be the first in Australia to interact with the more contemporary spaces.

Ford Australia says that by 2021, 90% of its local customer base will be covered by 90 refreshed dealerships. They will combine bricks-and-mortar retailing with web-based innovations to make it easier for customers to buy and service vehicles.

To give the showroom a community feel, a social area is available for consumers, sales and service people to connect in a relaxed and practical atmosphere.

Customers are greeted with hospitality gestures such as a complimentary cafe and breakfast bar, kids’ playroom, movie area and Wi-Fi throughout the complex.

Ford Australia aims to retain customer loyalty in a market still upset about the end of local manufacturing.

“This is an exciting time at Ford as we transform our dealerships while launching a record number of new vehicles – all to make consumers’ lives better and easier throughout their sales and ownership experience,” Ford Australia CEO and President Graeme Whickman says.

“It allows the customer to be in control and showcase the vehicles in a unique and stimulating way.”

Dealers have the option to instantly change branding on display around their showroom thanks to a cloud-based media system – meaning no more printed posters. Model information is accessible and customizable through a new digital-content distribution platform.

Ford soon will open another pilot showroom in Changsha, China.