This is a historic week in Pittsburgh. Uber is launching its fleet of Ford Fusions in an autonomous driving pilot. It’s not a big pilot—only four of the vehicles are outfitted with the technology and two people will sit in the front taking notes ready to take over in case something goes wrong. But, this is one of the more public displays of how ride sharing is changing the landscape of the global automotive industry.
Manufacturers are also jumping on board. Toyota and Uber inked a deal earlier in the year; VW invested $300 million in Gett Inc; GM put $500 million into Lyft and spent just over $1 billion to acquire Cruise Automation; and not to be left out, Apple invested $1 billion into the Chinese company Didi Chuxing. The market for on demand autonomous transportation is growing—and fast.
A few observations: Manufacturers need to go this way since the sharing economy is no longer just a pleasant notion—it’s happening in everything from automobiles to garden implements. As sales are leveling out, especially in developed markets, shareholders are pushing for greater returns and this certainly seems like a reasonable bet. More, there’s the potential of safer roads, at least in the long term.
I’m a big fan of Formula One—it amazes me that hundreds of sensors are gathering information on the cars' performance in real time, sending it back to Milton Keynes, Maranello, Brackley or wherever, making it possible for crews to make changes on the fly to gain that 2/10s of a second per lap. It's incredible when you think about it.
In the same way, there are numerous sensors in the marketplace that provide input into a brand’s make-up and health. In our context, the understanding and interpretation of information from these sensors allows marketers to build strong, relevant and differentiated brands.
I had a chance to sit down with Kyle Davies, Director of Marketing Research at Bond, to talk about the recent release of the Automotive Brand Telemetry Report.
Back in 1981 the economist and Harvard professor Theodore Levitt published his landmark article in the HBR, “Marketing Intangible Products and Product Intangibles.” It’s a great read since his insights relate directly to many of the challenges marketers face today.
When prospective customers can’t experience the product in advance, they are asked to buy what are essentially promises—promises of satisfaction. Even tangible, testable, feelable, smellable products are, before they’re bought, largely just promises.
Largely just promises. Doesn’t that just encapsulate the challenge marketers face?
Picking up a new car is magical. The new car smell. The technology. The enhanced performance. Brands and dealers that place an increased emphasis on the delivery (and do it well) increase the chances of a higher rating on their CX surveys. And when you think about it, it makes sense. It’s the last impression a customer has before they drive home and share their experience–hopefully positive–that they had at the dealership.
However, the bloom is still on the rose when the customer picks up the car. Even though they were shown how to pair their phone, operate the NAVI, or use voice commands, it doesn’t always stick. And if it doesn't stick, the result could be lower CX scores both on the brand’s internal program and on syndicated studies like JD Power. The technology may work as planned but if the customer doesn’t know how to use it, they think something is wrong with the car and offer up a poor score.
I’m a big fan of live brand experiences. They’re informative, different, and fun—and they give you a chance to see how bad you really are at driving a car in virtual reality.
I had a chance to sit down with Cyril Dimitris, Vice President of Toyota Canada, to discuss the Towards Tomorrow by Toyota brand gallery. This "pop-up" experience has brought Toyota direct to the consumer (specifically those hard to reach millennials), garnering valuable facetime and engagement outside the dealership environment. This is something many automotive brands are still struggling to do effectively.
Initiatives like this one allow customers to be exposed to the brand when they might have dismissed it in a different setting.
I’ve been involved in measuring the customer experience (CX) for over 20 years. It’s critical to get the voice of the customer to understand where a brand, dealer, salesperson, service advisor etc is strong or weak so they can improve. I get that in spades. However, over that time one of the areas that has been noticeably absent from the public discourse on this stuff is measuring the employee CX on an ongoing basis. This is odd because these individuals are absolutely critical in delivering the brand experience. They’re on the frontline so wouldn’t we want to hear regularly what they have to say so we can continuously improve?
My observation has been that the employee survey is done about once a year. Tick that box.
My call today is to incorporate measuring employee CX into your overall CX strategy. Yes—measuring how the customer feels is critical—but let’s start putting a little more emphasis on what our frontline people have to say, and doing it on an ongoing basis.
Dennis DesRosiers is the leading automotive analyst in the country. Even though he is often controversial, he never fails to provide insight and the proverbial "something to think about."
In this week’s #autobond, Dennis talks about fuel efficiency, his sales forecast for 2016 (and potential concerns), and the connected car and what it means to a small southwestern Ontario town.
Jim Kenzie has been one of Canada’s leading automotive journalists for the last quarter century, and currently serves as the Toronto Star Wheels' chief automotive reviewer. As an engineer and race driver, he has considerable experience and expertise when it comes to all things automotive. He's known for his strong views, which make him entertaining—if not controversial.
I had a chance to spend some time with Jim to get his thoughts on technology, distracted driving, and electric cars. Do you agree with him?
At the recent Canadian International Autoshow in Toronto, I had a chance to talk to Jennifer Barron, the new Director of Lexus in Canada. Jennifer is a very interesting person—with Lexus since 1990, she has played an instrumental role in designing the brand’s customer experience. Now, things have come full circle and she’s running the place.
Jennifer talks about what differentiates Lexus in the crowded luxury market and what it will take to compete in 2016 and beyond.
At the recent Canadian International Autoshow, I had a chance to speak with Cyril Dimitris, Toyota Canada’s new Vice President of Sales. The former Director of Lexus and Scion Divisions (among several other previous positions with Toyota), Cyril brings years of automotive brand expertise and deep understanding of the automotive customer to his new role.
In our conversation, Cyril talks about changing customer expectations, how Toyota is adapting, the U Squared concept, and the recent decision to nix the Gen-Y oriented Scion brand.