Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cars Still Don’t Fly, But They’re Learning to Talk

In recent years we’ve learned all about the new generation of digital customers, the kind who forget about a dealer as soon as they find the four-star garage down the street with “discounted parts and labor.” For these customers, when their check engine light comes on, they do a Google search for a garage and you’ve lost them forever. It happens that quickly. OEMs need to capture customers before they have the chance to consider shopping online for a service provider. That means providing a digital service upfront that rivals the knowledge of Siri at the speed of blazing fast 4G LTE networks.

Fortunately for OEMs, the new wave of in-vehicle technologies provides hope. Telematics is the technology of sending, receiving, and storing vehicle information via telecommunication systems. OEMs and individual dealers can harness telematics systems to access vehicle information, including location and diagnostic data. The best part is the four-star-rated garage down the street is left sitting on the outside looking in. Telematics opens enormous opportunities for dealers to gain an edge in retaining service customers.

People have faith in the capability and honesty of consumer technologies. No one checks with their IT guy to see if that “required Windows system update” is in fact necessary, even if the update might render their computer useless for an hour. Why, then, wouldn’t customers trust their vehicles if they were told that it was due for regular service, or that there is a failing airflow sensor? People have been trained to trust what their vehicles tell them since the invention of the fuel gauge.

Telematics goes beyond self-diagnostics. In a recent Carlisle benchmark of several auto and heavy equipment OEMs we looked closely at how telematics is evolving as a new vehicle technology. The most advanced systems are capable of facilitating appointment scheduling, but the industry hasn’t fully adopted the process yet. The vision of the “Connected Car” seamlessly brings in and retains service customers, starting with the transfer of vehicle usage and diagnostic information via telematics. This is what the new generation of appointment scheduling could look like for drivers:
  • My vehicle alerts me that it is due for service or repair
  • Using my current location and accessing my cloud calendar, my vehicle proposes several times for me to visit my local dealer
  • The dealer confirms the appointment and orders necessary parts
  • I arrive at the dealer for my appointment and my service is completed in record time, thanks to the off-the-shelf availability of all required parts
  • I don’t waste any time researching IRFs

BOTTOM LINE: Telematics presents exciting opportunities for OEMs because it allows OEMs to capture the customers before they have the chance to search for an IRF. Dealers will benefit from effortless appointment scheduling and remote transfer of vehicle self-diagnostic information, but that’s just the beginning. Telematics will one day boost retail parts inventory management performance to unprecedented levels with anticipative stocking. Further, the added benefit of capturing real-time driver behavior regarding service decisions could prove invaluable to OEMs’ understanding of parts and service market share and position.

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