A Gap in Technology Proficiency
Dealers play a pivotal role in how car buyers utilize advanced technologies within their vehicles. Consumers live in a digitized world full of smartphones, tablets, and social media. One would think that significance usage of these items would make car buyers comfortable with learning and engaging with advanced vehicle technologies. However, one interesting statistic reveals a low-level proficiency with technology with a surprising generational group.
A study by Change The Equation, a coalition that works to increase STEM proficiency in today’s youth, found that 58 percent of millennials have poor skills solving problems with technology. This study reveals that high usage of handheld technology does not always cause a “natural know-how” for a generation projected to be the most “tech-savvy.” Since this is now the largest generation in the market for cars, it is worth it to take a more in-depth look at how consumers are understanding and interacting with advanced vehicle technologies.
The Important Role Dealers Play in Educating Car Buyers
J.D. Power conducted its first Tech Experience Index Study to measure how car buyers interact with driver-centric technology within roughly three months of purchasing a car. The study revealed that overall satisfaction with advanced vehicle technologies was 25 to 54 points higher when a dealer explained advanced features in the car. Satisfaction dropped almost 98 points when this was not the case. Respondents were also unsure of what these features were used for.
The technologies that caused the most confusion for consumers in this study included collision protection, driving assistance, entertainment and connectivity, navigation, and smartphone mirroring. In an interview with Wards Auto, Kristin Kolodge, director of driver interaction and HMI Research remarked on the alarming numbers of consumers who are not using features they paid for because they do not understand how they work. She also made note that dealers play a crucial role in changing this narrative because they are the initial point of contact.
Are Dealers Comfortable with Advanced Vehicle Technologies?
The J.D. Power study revealed the need for dealer instruction and training regarding advanced technology. So, now that a need has been established, how equipped are dealers to answer the call? In Spring 2016, undercover researchers from the MIT AgeLab spoke with salespeople at 18 Boston-area dealerships. Their goal was to see how much these employees knew about common driver features that are within most vehicles. Those included were crash avoidance, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring. Only 35 percent of salespeople interviewed were able to give thorough explanations of the technology; while another 35 percent gave either poor or incredibly inaccurate instruction on how to use the technologies. This study revealed a startling gap in information that dealers are providing to potential car buyers. In fact, if customers do not understand the technology that is at their fingertips and how it can improve the safety of their car, they may turn it off altogether. Therefore, what can dealers do to prepare for advanced car technology instruction?
Inquire About Resources Manufacturers Can Offer – Keeping consumers informed is not just on the dealer, automakers can do a better job of preparing auto dealers to answer technology questions. Subaru has been known to inform their dealers of how the latest features work, and they provide literature that goes into detail about how different features operate and impact drivers. Dealers should reach out to manufacturers for any brochures, flyers, and manuals that describe new instruments in detail. Not only can these be passed along to customers, but it can also be used as a quick reference guide for new employees.
Never Underestimate YouTube – While many brag about utilizing YouTube for guidance on completing household tasks, there are tons and tons of auto reviews and tutorials on the streaming video service. A search for Toyota Lane Assist yielded almost 50,000 results. Most of the videos discussed how the technology worked and even included videos directly from Toyota with more information about Lane Assist and Safety Sense. If manufacturers are delayed in getting information to dealers, and the sales team needs a refresher or needs introductory knowledge YouTube is a surprisingly great place to start.
Visit MyCarDoesWhat.org – In 2016, the NADA partnered with the University of Iowa to develop MyCarDoesWhat.org. The website touts itself as a simple guide to a car’s safety features. There is even an area where an expert will explain and the ins and outs of how features such as backup cameras, adaptive cruise control, lane departure, and other advanced technology safety features work for drivers.
As the years go on, automobile technology features are going to increase in complexity. It is vital that dealers develop a training plan to put salespeople in the position to inform and instruct car buyers on what their car can do. As autonomous vehicles become more likely, it is essential that salespeople feel comfortable stepping into the role of educators and trainers. People might be tech savvy when it comes to a smartphone, but the public may need a little help understanding a feature that could save their life one day.