The trick that the car industry is missing

Their customers don’t understand the technology in their cars.

I am no longer an Innovation Specialist at Nissan- I took up a fantastic opportunity to become the Marketing Manager for a 3-part company called The Preview Group. Including PVL UK-saving lives on the road with high visibility livery, Preview, a marketing agency and Art D’Signs, sign writers and vehicle wrappers.

But, this hasn’t actually stopped me being ‘a vehicle expert’ in my spare, voluntary time.

When I left Nissan, I added my LinkedIn details and personal email address on my ‘out of office’. This has led to a few customers and acquaintances getting in touch, usually to wish me luck but some are continuing to ask questions about their vehicles.

One particular LEAF owner didn’t buy his vehicle from the dealership I worked at but he had called into our dealership, when I worked there, to ask some questions about his sat nav. Naturally, I helped him out and as I do with all my customers, gave him my details to offer any technical assistance he may need in the future.

This Saturday morning I spent just under 2 hours on the phone with him- a scheduled ‘LEAF lesson’ so he could learn how to drive the car to get the best results, how to use the radio, what all the lights on the dash mean, etc. Weirdly, I can memorise the exact layout of the dash display…

Now before you say, ‘why didn’t you just send him back to the person/dealer he bought it from?’ well I tried that gentle suggestion but in essence, and from his feedback; he didn’t want to ask his sales executive because (s)he was always too busy and he didn’t know as much as I did. So he (and others) keeps coming back to me. (No, Nissan don’t pay me to remain a brand and electric vehicle advocate- anymore!)

Of course, that doesn’t matter to him, he’s just desperate to understand the very expensive and exciting product he’s just purchased. And trust me, he’s read the manual cover to cover, but some things need to be explained person to person. I don’t blame the sales executive either (I did get annoyed a bit at first, I must admit) but  (s)he has enough to do, pleasing management, working all the hours, test drives, bartering with the valeter to get cars cleaned. A job in sales is no walk in the park.

Nissan attempted a resolution to this issue by recruiting ‘Innovation Specialists’ who were to focus on the education side and push the sales of electric vehicles. But I argue that this technology knowledge gap is bigger than just knowing about electric cars. Of course, that is a lot of it but I first realised how many people don’t understand their cars when my chiropractor told me that his wife had bought a brand new BMW. She couldn’t work or understand the Sat Nav, so she had opted to buy a Tom Tom to fit to the windscreen. When I worked at SEAT I spent a lot of my time helping people who had visited the service department to learn how to synch their phone to the bluetooth.

The service advisors are there to help fix the cars, the sales executives are there to sell the cars. There is a crucial and missing role in the dealership set up. The technical advisor.

Mercedes have  a’Star Expert’, BMW have an ‘iGenius’ and even Arnold Clark is recruiting ‘Product Genius’ roles so there are definite signs of improvement but no manufacture is close to Apple. Apple builds and sells desirable and, for some, can’t-live-without technologies. Cars are now the same and the same service is not being offered. You can go online to Apple and book in for workshops to learn: http://www.apple.com/hk/en/retail/learn/. You can’t do this (‘this’ being educational classes, or get convenient advice) with any automotive brand. Yet.

Every day there is new information about the latest developments in the automotive industry, but if consumers don’t know how to use them, they won’t be as desirable as your competitor.

And as I’m out of the automotive industry, I enjoy my Saturday mornings off work- not educating people about cars, help a girl out! I will add that I am more than happy to help and share my knowledge but I am passionately agitated that this reflects a bigger issue that the corporate world might not be aware of.

P.S. A note to the manufacturers; look...the entertainment industry is recognising that people are frustrated with their lack of understanding of adapting technologies. Great advert by the way Virgin Media.

P.P.S The headline photo- I plagiarised from a Toyota blog of ‘How to use sat-nav features.’ Have a look here and see how many comments are there for people not understanding how certain features work. I’m frustrated for them.

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