Auto Service World
Feature   September 18, 2015   by Andrew Ross

Smarter Cars, Smarter You

How connected are you? Depending on how you look at it, the connected car – made possible by the coming together of dozens of technologies – will be either the bane of the independent aftermarket’s existence, a foe created by the OEMs to be vanquished, or a gathering of technologies that will tie customers to independent service providers ever more tightly and make the entire distribution chain more efficient.
Depending on where you and your customers are in terms of accepting and implementing technology, it could go either way. Cars are definitely getting smarter, so you can expect that you and your business are going to have to get smarter right along with them.
Take telematics, for example. There are already aftermarket telematics solutions out there, and while I will not oversimplify the process of getting them into consumers’ cars (or overlook the concerns that keep some consumers from letting that happen), it’s important to recognize that the technology has the potential to genuinely improve the vehicle owner’s experience. Not only can telematics enable car owners to connect with their service providers in a more effective way when they have a problem, they can – and should – allow for the service industry to connect with the consumer before they have a problem.
Cars are increasingly able to predict for themselves when parts might be too degraded to function properly, and I’m not just referring to emissions-related components that have been so much of the focus of technology and telematics. Combined with increasingly effective failure rate modelling, this will keep more products on the move to the repair bay and fewer products sitting on shelves waiting.
You can expect more and more items to have the word “smart” preceding their names. Smart bearings that communicate when they’re getting a tad wobbly, but before a driver would ever notice, have already been the topic of discussion. And of course, there are a number of systems that already alert the driver of waning performance – even simple things like brake pad sensors or oil changes – and there is no reason that these wouldn’t be prime candidates for a more connected experience.
My current vehicle already tells me when I’m a month away from requiring the scheduled service. Is it really so hard to believe that the next generation wouldn’t prompt a service centre to call a driver to make an appointment? It doesn’t seem like that much of a leap to me.
So to recap: cars are getting smarter, and that is going to require a smarter approach from the aftermarket.
There are certainly technological challenges, but there are also some very human obstacles to overcome, in terms of communicating effectively to car owners about a whole new level of preventative maintenance.
Step one is to improve your own familiarity with what is available now at the OEM level, what aftermarket solution can be offered to customers today, and what is expected tomorrow.
Then talk to your shop owner customers and gauge what their expectations are, especially when it comes to timelines for implementing a plan. There will probably be much less time before the connected car takes hold in the aftermarket than they may consider.
Put simply, they need to be as connected to their customers as their cars are. That’s something I’m sure they will understand. And the coming state of technology has the potential to do more to improve this shift than we have seen before.
Connecting with customers is, after all, an asset on which the independent aftermarket service provider has prided itself for years. At last, technology may now be on its side.
— Andrew Ross, Publisher

Print this page


Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *