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A Change in Station

May 15, 2013

So I’ve noticed something in J.D. Power and Associates’ last two U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index studies. In 2011, the firm found that delivery times were stretching. But it didn’t blame dealers; it pointed the finger at in-car technologies.

J.D. Power’s analysts found that dealers were obligated to spend more time explaining how to set up and use new in-car technologies. The result was a 32-minute increase in the average time it took to complete a delivery.

I bring up these findings because I think there’s a real nice marketing opportunity here, and I know I’m not alone. As I’ve seen on YouTube, some of you sales “consultants” out there are getting creative with how you help your customers maximize the cool gadgets outfitting their vehicles.

Well, in 2012, J.D. Power discovered that more than 80 percent of customers appreciated your efforts. And out of the 8 percent who said they didn’t think their dealer spent enough time with them at delivery, 75 percent said they wouldn’t have minded an in-store demonstration of the navigation unit or a tutorial explaining how to pair their mobile phone with their vehicle’s Bluetooth-capable sound system.

There’s another reason I have car audio on my mind. My company’s flagship media group, the Fleet Group, handed me the keys to a new media car they picked up: the 2014 Mazda6 i Sport. I may not be qualified to tell you whether the car can climb hills like a billy goat, but I can tell you that the mid-size sedan’s Bluetooth-enabled phone and audio system really impressed me.

And it was easy to use. I got in the car, hit the Bluetooth tab on the touchscreen, responded to some prompts and the system took over. Then up came my list of Pandora stations. I also was able to access my iTunes library and play music from the YouTube app on my phone. The experience got even better when I turned the car off. The system paused the song I was playing on Pandora and started up right where I left off when I returned. It even worked when the phone was in my pocket.

People, this type of wireless connectivity rolling out of the factory as a standard feature is pretty darn cool. Last October, when our own Stephanie Forshee wrote about the marketing possibilities associated with Pandora, she noted a couple of key stats I hope you noticed, including the one stating that 20 manufacturers had integrated the Internet radio service into 50 new vehicles.

She also wrote that, last August, Pandora listeners racked up 1.16 billion hours, capturing a 6.3 percent share of U.S. radio listening hours. Of those who tuned in, 75 percent did so through their mobile phone or non-traditional device. And I have to imagine some of that listening was done through in-car entertainment systems using a USB connection, Blueooth or an auxiliary input.

Just imagine how much greater that share will be when my generation comes off the sidelines. We spent the Great Recession driving old cars and trying to hold onto our jobs — but we did purchase other things, like iPhones. Now we want the music we stored on these devices to play in our next new car.

Look, Toyota, Hyundai, Ford and General Motors are already toying around with Bluetooth-enabled systems for mobile apps. So shouldn’t we start toying with marketing strategies aimed at showcasing this stuff? That means creating, posting and reposting video demos online and making them easy to find. Show your customers — and any other YouTube viewers — how to make calls or listen to your music through the stereo system, enter a destination into the navigation system, and use point-of-interest features.

Don’t forget that recent consumer studies have proved today’s customers are less loyal to brand. I can’t tell you why, but, as a former marketer of car audio products, I can tell you they are loyal to connectivity, especially when it comes to their mobile gadgets. And talking early and often about this tech stuff could really help F&I managers draw a better picture of how the products they offer can protect all this gadgetry.

I won’t question Jim Ziegler’s assertion in the February issue that the car business has lost the “magic and mystique” when it comes to new-model introductions. I just wonder if marketing speak like “dynamic stability control” and “holistic, ground-up approach to reengineering” really grabs consumers enough to pause their iPhones.

Look, there are enough media outlets and bloggers writing about vehicle shootouts, but I don’t see a lot of them going beyond the bullet points they get from the OEMs when it comes to these new in-car systems. And that’s your opportunity, to use video and social media to say what the factory TV ads aren’t.

Comments

  1. 1. Ruggles [ May 16, 2013 @ 07:27PM ]

    I was driving a new 2014 Impala today at a press ride and drive. The Impala had Syrius/XM radio. The car had a feature that allowed one to "tag" a particular song from Syrius/XM. All one then had to do was to hook up one's iPod/MP3 player and it would automatically load your tagged songs from Syrius/XM onto your player. I thought that was pretty neat.

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