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Don’t Let Gen Y Distract

The industry is on the verge of regaining some of the control it lost to the Internet, but the way dealers view technology must change before order is restored.

March 11, 2011

I just want to say that I believe the iPad, or at least the dormant tablet category it awoke, will revolutionize the automotive retail industry. In fact, I think it’s already revolutionizing how the industry views what’s possible.

My certainty is partially fueled by the scene I walked into in early February. I had just hoofed it across downtown San Francisco to the Palace Hotel for J.D. Power and Associates’ Industry Roundtable. The darkened ballroom was lit from below by a blue hue emanating from the sea of iPad devices in the audience. But the users weren’t Gen Yers. Heck, they weren’t even Gen Xers.

See, the real reason why this Gen Xer believes the iPad will change our business is because a baby boomer told me so. Crossbow Group Inc.’s Ashley Herndon is a veteran of the starter-interrupt segment and he recalled the big plans he had when, in 1993,  Apple rolled out its MessagePad — you may remember it as the “Newton.” The industry was on the verge of a breakthrough, but the world, unfortunately, wasn’t ready.

Well, folks, that time has come.

See, this Gen Xer is a little tired of hearing about what Gen Y wants and how the industry must cater to that generation’s needs. Frankly, I think this race to get the car-buying experience online to appease Gen Y is distracting us from what’s really possible. And besides, buying a vehicle is a personal thing, and I don’t think that’s been lost on Gen Y.

Whether you realize it or not, the advent of the iPhone and devices like it have changed the way consumers think as well. No longer does Gen Y need Mom or Dad to play wingman on the road to a sale. All Gen Y needs is an iPhone to Google whatever it doesn’t understand.

The Internet also changed the game for technology providers, but in a good way. As we’ve seen in recent years, technology providers are moving away from their device-dependent strategies to Web-based solutions. That means all you have to do is figure out what hardware you’ll need to access these tools.

A new study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that about two-thirds of U.S. consumers are now somewhat or very familiar with e-readers and tablet devices. That means the iPad is one piece of hardware your employees are probably using already. And as you all know, the more your staff is familiar with a device, the more they’ll use it.

Now, wouldn’t it be cool if the iPad could be used to harness DealerTrack’s new prequalification tool for its CreditOnline solution? I mean, imagine your sales guy sitting inside a vehicle with a wavering customer and then being able to — based on the customer’s credit profile and lender guidelines — pull up payment options or the customer’s monthly payment to get a commitment. That’s pretty powerful stuff, right?

Reynolds’ big thing this year is its new Retail Management System, a concept that represents a whole new line of customer-facing tools. Ron Lamb, the new president of Reynolds, used a large square to symbolize the company’s dealer management system. He then drew a circle around the square to symbolize the company’s new RMS push. As he said, the DMS is great at capturing and storing data, but what it doesn’t do well is connect with consumers. The company’s new RMS will.

By the way, one of the new solutions under Reynolds’ new RMS is a sales tool that runs on the iPad. It allows sales staff to create prospects, search inventory and do a lot more from the Apple device.

That study I mentioned earlier also surveyed magazine subscribers. They found that readers will spend about an hour using a magazine’s app, but only a few minutes on the same publication’s Website. Yeah, I think the iPad is going to revolutionize a lot of industries. I just hope that both of our industries will be part of that revolution.


  1. 1. Barb Heidenreich [ March 17, 2011 @ 04:46AM ]

    This is a great article Gregory. I have shared with my recruiting team with ADP. It's so important to embrace techology and what it can offer us, but not to lose the personal touch which is still so necessary!

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