2013
11.06

Automakers have an opportunity right now with customers to pitch the benefits of technology. But are they missing the boat? After interviewing Bryce Hoffman, automotive industry reporter, The Detroit News, on my radio show I have to concur with his assessment that the automakers are squandering their chance to educate consumers about connected technology.

We all agree the connected-car industry is seeing rapid developments these days, but it’s also a very challenging time. With that said, there is a generational conflict that has developed in terms of technology in the car. Older motorists, i.e., baby boomers, are happy with the way cars have always worked—which means purchasing a vehicle for speed, power, performance, and appeal. However, now toss in some sophisticated technology and what you get are frustrated drivers, Hoffman said during the interview, who don’t understand how to work the technology in today’s advanced models.

On the flipside, younger drivers are demanding connected tech in their vehicles. Thus, automakers are caught between two demographics in terms of deciding who to please and how to please them. What’s an OEM (original-equipment manufacturer) to do?

Hoffman suggests automakers put a greater focus toward their educational efforts so that consumers are accustomed to technology in the car. He notes Ford learned its lessons the hard way with SYNC and MyFord Touch. Customers were very critical until Ford made some serious changes to the systems to reflect customer feedback and interactions. He adds it’s imperative that drivers are knowledgeable about the technology in their cars before they drive off the lot.

When dealers/automakers are selling their cars they have a tremendous opportunity to pitch the technology benefits of their vehicles. For instance, the technology in the Cadillac CUE has proven to be very confusing as noted in some recent studies, including Consumer Reports. But if the automaker were able to talk to customers about the important aspects of the connected technology, it could ultimately wind up with a higher satisfaction rate, explains Hoffman. The irony here is that many carmakers still do not get it and are failing miserably when it comes to educating the public.

Hoffman made another great point that’s worth noting. Automakers also need to keep in mind that driver’s need options. Companies should make it easy for motorists to lock out connected features if they don’t want them, but at the same time making sure they can be accessed if desired.

Only time will tell if the auto industry will catch on quick enough to save itself or whether it will cling to its old rigid ways of the past. Times are a changing and so is the technology.

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