While methods of selling and servicing cars have changed greatly in the past few years, the products themselves have undergone a transformation, introducing technology to consumers that not long ago would have been considered science fiction. For the next few entries in our Dealer Panel series, we’ve asked our panel how they deal with the changing pace of automotive technology and consumer demands.
AutoSuccess: How have the modern consumer’s expectations of automotive technology changed in recent years?
Andrew DiFeo, GM of Hyundai of St. Augustine: I’ve seen studies and surveys that show that technology is the No. 1 reason consumers are upgrading their vehicles, so it’s become a huge part of their consideration process. Does this brand’s particular model have the technology that I’m looking for? Does it sync with my life? Apple Car Play and Android Auto, for instance, are features that consumers are really asking for. It’s part of their shopping process and they might be crossing off brands if features like that are not offered.
Chris Saraceno, VP and Partner of Kelly Automotive Group: Today’s customers are becoming more comfortable with automotive technology and now expect some of the more technical features that were cutting-edge options in cars before to be included as standard equipment. More and more, customers are expecting — and demanding — features such as smartphone syncing, lane departure mitigation and back-up or bird’s-eye view cameras to be part of the standard package in new cars.
Mike Good, GM of Street Toyota: Elevating expectations must be met — by R&D, by the manufacturer, by the dealer pressing for equal distribution and training, then, most critically, in delivery to the consumer. Selling to a wider segment and different generations of the population is a challenge. That challenge mounts as we attempt to introduce, explain then deliver the ultimate value of technologies to customers. More dealerships are answering that challenge by using delivery specialists, trained to know every model front to back. They understand then demonstrate technological value to every customer taking delivery. These specialists often offer follow-up visits at the store or even in the customer’s home and, you guessed it, the vehicle delivery quality index goes through the roof.
Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli, Vice President and Partner of Cardinal Honda: When it comes to consumer appetite for technology, consumers seem to fall into one of two camps. Infrequent buyers haven’t shopped in five years or more and tend to be surprised by the amount of technology available in even entry-level vehicles. Sideview cameras, voice command phone pairing, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control? Mind blown! The second camp of buyers upgrade their vehicles with the same fervor as their smartphones. They come in prepared with their research asking for the latest tech by name. Consumers from both camps drive new vehicles home with increased safety, convenience and owner experience.
AutoSuccess: What types of technology are today’s shoppers most requesting?
Andrew Difeo: It’s really about the connectivity. The mobile phone has become an important part of people’s daily lives, and they want that connectivity to transfer from their home or office into their vehicle. It’s really about that connectivity with that smartphone, and not just for phone calls, but for text messages, for applications…, pretty much everything they have on their smartphone, they want to work with their vehicle.
Chris Saraceno: Part of it depends on the age of the buyer. People over 40 are more likely to ask for a GPS/navigation features, while people under 40 tend to use their phones for that. We’ve found that groups want Bluetooth integration features with their smartphones, and we’ve been getting increasing requests for collision prevention technology and overall customized luxuries. More customers are also demanding that their vehicles have increased fuel capacity, either through hybrid technology or advanced environmentally safe fuel capabilities.
Mike Good: Customers are not asking much about Bluetooth or navigation systems anymore. They expect and deserve that technology. They are asking about pre-collision systems with pedestrian detection functions and lane departure alerts. Today’s customers are more concerned with safety-enhancing technology than anything else. There’s also a bit of a fight for accessory companies to utilize the OBD-II ports. SkyLINK is just one example of how dealerships can leverage vehicle-locating efficiencies internally while ultimately offering value-added accessories to customers.
Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli: Some customers come in looking for the latest infotainment technology, while others come in looking for remote start options and other connectivity features. Most of our customers however, are looking for the latest safety features — blind spot warning, lane watch, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow. These are the features that have our customers talking about the wonders of technology.