An interesting headline from an Economist article caught my eye the other day: “Fasten Your Seat Belts: Flying Taxis Are About to Take Off at Last.”
My first reaction? Flying cars have been talked about for decades but have not yet come to fruition. This time, however, flying cars seem to be gaining more traction, especially with deals like electric air-taxi startup Lilium merging with a former GM executive’s SPAC in a $3.3 billion deal.
Of course, any advance in technology creates an entire new range of challenges. What happens if one of those air taxis suddenly falls from the sky? Safety recalls are now a daily part of the auto industry. It’s not too far-fetched to recognize that flying cars could bring significantly more risk to drivers, passengers, pedestrians … and now people on the ground, nowhere near a street!
Technology Is Getting Ahead of Our Ability to Manage It
Thinking about the impact of safety recalls on flying vehicles may be a tad premature. But, as someone who helps dealers cost-effectively manage safety recalls, the impact of new technology is near and dear to my heart.
I also spent more than a decade in the defense aerospace industry, creating technologically advanced aircraft avionics. The design, development, parts sourcing and project management required to meet extreme quality requirements were — and are — cutting-edge. Consider this: How many parts are there in an airplane, and how many are there in a vehicle? Lufthansa has reported it has a plane with approximately 6 million parts. That compares to just 30,000 parts in an average Toyota.
Whatever the time frame for flying cars, vehicles are becoming more technologically advanced with electric vehicle and autonomous vehicle technologies moving closer to mainstream every day. Vehicle complexity — due to ever-increasing vehicle-safety features — is already increasing safety recalls with new challenges for dealers.
Look at the consumer and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) uproar from recent Tesla autopilot malfunctions. Tesla grabbed headlines all across the industry. And, what happened when Hyundai had some electric vehicle fires? It led to an 82,000-vehicle recall at $11,000 per repair.
Flying cars won’t be as large as a Lufthansa commercial airliner, but to make a car fly will require more parts and systems. More parts and systems equal more complexity. More complexity means more things can go wrong. And, of course, when things go wrong with ground-based vehicles in the auto industry, what happens? Recalls. Airborne vehicles can fall out of the sky! Heck of a way to determine there is a safety recall that needs to be published.
The average neighborhood dealership won’t be selling flying cars for the foreseeable future, but they will be knee-deep in even newer technologies. Electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles are technological marvels, but the minute something goes wrong, they are high-profile targets for recalls.
What Should Dealers Do Today?
First, dealers need to make a cultural shift that recognizes the importance of safety recall management. This includes putting the right systems in place to manage the recall process.
If you don’t have a written policy covering how the organization handles recalls, your liability is much higher than it should be. Having all employees well-versed in the policy and buying into proactively managing safety recalls will help avoid selling vehicles with open safety recalls.
Next, one team member needs to own the entire recall process. Even in a large dealer group, there should be one employee dedicated to “owning” safety recalls for the entire organization.
Finally, if your dealership automates the recall management process, you will catch recalls you may be missing, which also means additional profits! We help thousands of people in dealerships across the country manage their recall processes. Those who embrace technology are making more money by proactively identifying and fixing vehicles with open recalls. In addition, they are limiting liability by taking steps to mitigate sales of vehicles with open recalls while reducing time and expense in doing so.
Dealerships who put these steps in place might not be selling flying cars in the near future, but cars will be flying out of their service bays, generating revenue and limiting liability.