Hop into a vehicle brought to market in recent years and it’s highly likely that you will be faced with an unmissable infotainment or control screen. Highly adaptable and with a user interface that increasingly resembles a smartphone, the screen has become the control point for the majority of vehicle features and information, including vehicle navigation and mapping, satellite radio, smartphone sync, voice command, remote start and much more.
With every next-generation model release, the Wi-Fi connectivity capabilities of the screen multiply and the vehicle becomes further engrained in the digital lives of its owners. Sanjay Ravi, Managing Director, Microsoft, believes that we’re only at the beginning of understanding its potential: “Wireless Wi-Fi connectivity is such a game-changing technology inside the vehicle that analysts are predicting eight-fold growth in Wi-Fi enabled automotive applications over the next five years.”1
The relentless advancement of infotainment systems has resulted in new automaker investment and divisions to ensure that these systems and their information, remain up to date. In collaboration with Microsoft, Ford has developed the cloud-based Ford Service Delivery Network, to automatically update the vehicle’s software without the intervention of the driver. Just like smartphones or computers, new software updates can be delivered wirelessly and seamlessly to vehicles as soon as they’re available, ensuring that owners always have the latest and safest software throughout the life of their Ford ownership.
Improving Aftersales through connectivity
Automakers are also investing heavily in improving the service and maintenance experience through on-board vehicle connectivity. Examples include:
- Tesla, which has introduced technology that can monitor engine diagnostics remotely and relay this information directly to Tesla service staff.
- BMW, which can collect diagnostic data electronically and sends it to dealerships, providing key information in advance regarding the level of maintenance required. BMW believes this data not only educates its technical teams on model and vehicle performance, but also improves the quality of service when the customer enters the dealership.
- Chevrolet, which will begin to proactively notify drivers if their model has a history of specific malfunctions, as well as the ability to schedule service. Available on some 2016 models, this vehicle information is shared via the onboard WiFi and OnStar Remote Link applications.
Will connectivity transform the dealership’s processes?
Advancements in vehicle connectivity and infotainment functionality may also bring change to vehicle retailing and the showroom floor. Some dealerships are seeking to emulate the retail strategies of consumer tech giants Apple and Samsung, with specialist staff tasked with explaining and demonstrating infotainment and connectivity features to customers, and other staff handling the rest of the sales process.
There are also repercussions of the rapid progression of Infotainment systems and connectivity for Aftersales staff. A recent survey by consulting firm Carlisle & Co2 revealed that ‘Handling infotainment issues’ is requiring an increasing amount of Service Technician time. Technicians noted that the majority of time spent with customers involved explaining and training owners on how to use functionality, rather than fixing issues. The survey results indicate that automakers and dealerships may need to consider further investment and tweaks to training and sales processes, to ensure that consumers better understand how to use vehicle technology before taking delivery.
1. Reinventing the Auto Industry – the Road Ahead (www.auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com, October 2014)
2. Wrong Car Dealership Staffers Stuck Fielding Customer Questions (http://wardsauto.com/dealers/wrong-car-dealership-staffers-stuck-fielding-customer-questions, May 2015)
Image 1: Audi is partnering with Android to develop Smart Display – an integrated tablet for enhanced in vehicle connectivity. (credit: www.Endgadget.com)
Image 2: Automakers around the globe are advancing vehicle technology to enable owners to access real-time maintenance intervals and service updates that are based on their unique vehicle usage. (credit: Sanjay Ravi, Microsoft Business Matters)