Auto Service World
Feature   March 10, 2016   by Steve Pawlett

The Changing Face of Parts Retailing

GM’s new Cadillac CT6 sedan features a twin-turbo engine, three dozen stereo speakers, and a rearview mirror able to project live video of objects behind the car – but no compact disc player. GM isn’t the only OEM leaving this old standby out. Several new cars hitting dealerships this year are shedding familiar features, in order to keep up with fast-moving technology and save weight.
Well-known components like ignition keys and analogue gauges are going the way of cigarette lighters and hand-cranked windows. This fairly rapid transformation has traditional auto parts makers scrambling to adapt as new players such as Google, Sony, and other tech companies attempt to redefine the automobile.
After reviewing an image of Google’s self-driving car, steering company Jekt Corporation, which is partially owned by Toyota, decided to rethink its business. The Nagoya, Japan-based company is currently developing a “steer-by-wire” system in which the steering wheel, axles, and tires use electronic signals to communicate rather than physical connections.
Autonomy isn’t the only new technological sea change. As General Motors did earlier, Fiat, Chrysler, and Honda no longer offer CD players as standard equipment. With smartphones able to store or stream music, continuing to offering a player for CDs no one uses is now considered a waste of space.
It’s now apparent the increased transmission of data between aftermarket retailer and consumer, as well as consumer and vehicle (see our Telematics Report in Market Tracker on page 16), will emerge as the new standard for parts retailing in the coming years. Expect to see new types of retail businesses emerge to provide services to consumers using the data they are generating online.
Progressive jobbers will soon reach consumers inside their vehicles, using apps
that can tell them what’s wrong with their vehicle and connect them to a parts and
service provider. You will see device manufacturers, app developers, and even telecom providers emerge as new industry stakeholders in the digital aftermarket,
as it continues to evolve into a digital marketplace.
In the not-too-distant future, for those old-school customers who prefer perusing the aisles of an actual store, expect sales enhancements that include self-serve kiosks and “virtual assistants” rather than human counterpeople to aid in picking out the correct battery or wiper blade.
Technologies such as near-field communication tags will transfer information from the product sitting on the retail shelf directly to the shopper’s phone, allowing them to decide if they want to buy it or even to pay for it without ever communicating with a store employee.
Tapping into an already buzzing social media realm shows no signs of slowing down for auto retailers and repair shops looking to leverage digital gathering places. Facebook, for example, has become a very strong platform for reaching targeted customers in a virtual store setting. Buyer and seller can chat during the transaction and the jobber can issue rewards to people who “recommend” them to their friends online.
I already have my vinyl collection in storage. Guess it’s time to make room for my CD collection. nJN

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