For generations, it was the automotive industry that drove how new technologies were integrated into automobiles. Now, as cars become connected to service facilities and to each other, it’s the consumer electronics industry that’s driving that integration, and major automotive OEMs are along for the ride.
For Ford Motor Company, that realization has come at a heavy cost. A few years ago, Ford tried to position itself as the leader in in-car technology by building a bespoke, Microsoft-blessed system called MyFordTouch. The malfunctions and general user-unfriendliness in that system was a large part of the reason that Ford and Lincoln vehicles fared so poorly in a major consumer magazine’s rankings last year, ending up in 26th and 27th position out of 28 brands evaluated.
“It’s important for us to acknowledge that the real value for customers with the connected car is outside of our auto industry,” Ford Motor Company Executive Vice President Jim Farley said last week in a speech at the Los Angeles Auto Show. “For the car companies, it’s pretty clear the mobile digital economy is not in our hands.”
Other brands are reeling, as well. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the CUE system in Cadillac’s new ATS sedan contributed to Cadillac dropping 10 places in the rankings of a major consumer publication.
Companies like Renault in France are getting better at understanding how a nimble digital partner can help make the promise of connected cars a reality. In an article by The Drum, Renault’s digital director Patrick Hofstetter said his company is on the lookout for digital start-ups to partner with on connected car services including mobile apps.
Hofstetter says that Renault is particularly focused on loyalty and fixed operations — the service area of any automotive dealership — as the place where they’ve traditionally been weak, despite a huge percentage of the business’s margins coming from that area of the dealership. ““All car makers are overspending on the conquest and underspending on the loyalty,” says Hofstetter, “which is a shame because 50 per cent of margins come after the sale.”
“The connected car is evolving,” according to Connected World Magazine. “Pretty soon, vehicles will be connected to everything including the road and other cars…As this is beginning to happen, technology providers are determining how bets to deliver this…experience to drivers.”
It’s up to companies like Zubie, and many others like it, to drive the connectivity between businesses and consumers, and between cars. The worldwide automotive industry is looking to companies like ours to facilitate this connectivity.