|By Chabot, Bob|
Telematics is poised to affect us all, sooner rather than later. As with all new automotive technologies, independent shops must be prepared to adapt to the change to continue operating successful businesses.
Technology doesn't just happen. It takes years to develop, implement and perfect. My first lesson in this was a decade ago, when I visited with Larry Bums, then
During my test drive with Bums, I asked him what other technologies were on his radar screen. 'Telematics," he responded casually. "Bob, suppose you owned a Corvette. Now suppose I told you GM had developed a software patch that could provide your Corvette with 20 more horsepower that could be sent directly to your vehicle overnight. Would you be interested in that?"
After I replied affirmatively, he added, 'Well, we can do that now in our research facilities. All we need to do is build the infrastructure to deliver it widely, and the means to monetize it." That day, 10 years ago, my interest was sparked. Today, telematics is on the cusp of dismpting traditional vehicle service and repair, particularly in the area of remote vehicle diagnostics.
Modem street automobiles are no longer mere mechanical devices with a driver. They're also an array of data and communications technology that permits telematics-enabled decision-making. Vehicles are pervasively monitored and controlled by dozens of electronic computers, sensors and controllers, coordinated via internal networks.
As with other vehicle technologies, OEMs also want to turn telematics products and services into a revenue stream. Modern telematics products and services generally fall into one of two broad categories:
*Customer Relationship Manage- ment (CRM) telematics, such as infotainment, navigation, location and other conveniences.
*Vehicle Relationship Management (VRM) telematics, such as remote vehicle diagnostics, preventive maintenance scheduling, driver behavior modification and more.
The recent boom in consumer electronics demand provided a timely doorway for OEMs to market telematics. The transition began first with CRM embedded products and services that targeted "top-of-mind" consumer demands. These focused on growing the bond between vehicle owners and the automaker by delivering telematics-based applications that provided positive in-vehicle experiences. In addition, it was determined that consumers would willingly pay for CRM products and services.
The annual International Consumer Electronics Show (ICES) provides a good barometer for the growth of vehicle telematics systems over time. OEMs first began demonstrating CRM telematics in the early 2000s-typically infotainment and navigation products delivered through center stack consoles. It was during this time that
Other automakers began to follow suit. The automobile industry is now a significant participant in exhibitor, speaking, panel and planning roles at ICES events. At the recent 2013 event, more than a dozen OEMs participated, each with embedded telematics products that featured a mix of proprietary embedded CRM and VRM features.
Consumers have been more or less conditioned to see automakers as the providers of infotainment, navigation and other high-value CRM solutions. Persuading them to use vehicle diagnostics and other VRM services is the next step, as OEMs try to broaden their customer relationships by persuading motorists to also view dealers as their go-to guardian and service provider.
Huge Revenue Potential
"The automotive aftermarket is one of the few industries where we know what we're going to have to service approximately seven years in advance," shared Frank Ordóñez a few years ago, while he was the president of Delphi Product & Service Solutions. That holds true for telematics.