Connected Car—A Car-nucopia of Possibilities?

February 26, 2020

Monday, February 10th, 2020 was one of those eagerly anticipated days for me—I was receiving delivery of my brand new car!

Weeks of wistfully looking back at brochures to remind me of the look and feel I had experienced during the test drive were about to disappear as, at last, I could excitedly explore all of the multi-sensory promises that my new car offered.

Being as we—our global Automotive & Mobility team at Escalent—have done so much research and consulting in the connected car space, I was really looking forward to discovering a cornucopia of digital possibilities that could enhance my journey and/or experience as I drove to diverse destinations.

Very conscious of how much my smartphone functionalities had re-wired some of life’s processes for the better, and having the firm conviction that my car is far more than a transportation device, I excitedly imagined that these connected car possibilities were going to be endless… weren’t they…?

So, what did the manufacturer’s connected car app have to offer?

  • A Calendar that Syncs with my Smartphone
    Why would I want to pay for this when I already take advantage of this functionality on my smartphone?
  • Vehicle Status Monitor
    This feature replicates on my smartphone a load of information that either proactively presents itself to me or is accessible with either a couple of twiddles of a control or via voice command.
  • Live Traffic Data
    Any self-respecting navigation system has been offering this for years. At least this feature was offered at no charge.
  • Smartphone Integration
    Conscious of the fact that many manufacturers already offer branded versions of this as a standard feature, I am a little disappointed that it is not already included—and I am certainly not inclined to pay a significant sum of money for this pleasure.

If the manufacturer was hoping to earn some subscription money out of me, they are sadly mistaken. Where is the new news? Where are the enhanced connected car experiences or capabilities that begin to deliver the level of disruptive and transformative benefits that my smartphone already gives me?

Equipped with connected car technology, I see my vehicle as a smartphone with a wheel on each corner—it knows where I am, where I am going and, most likely, the purpose of the journey.

If vehicle manufacturers were to re-interpret the role of a vehicle beyond that of a transit device and more in line with the emotional and practical support that my car delivers to me in various scenarios, then I might be more inclined to subscribe to some services that would meet the manufacturer’s objectives to successfully monetize connected car technology.

That is not the case today but let’s explore this possibility a little and the boundaries that could exist to where I give my connected car permission to play or not.

Scenario #1: How a Connected Car Could Have Enhanced my Car Shopping Experience

Let’s rewind the clock and imagine that my old connected car had had the capability to realize that I was visiting car dealerships one Saturday afternoon. If my connected car could have then realized that there was a reasonable chance I was looking for a new car, what could it have offered me?

Imagine that, all of a sudden, a message from a finance company pops up on my car’s screen offering competitively priced loans. My reaction could have been: “How dare you!” On the other hand, another person might value that kind of information and find it very useful while car shopping.

If the car could have been able to recognize that I had been doing the legwork around the dealerships all afternoon and might be a bit frazzled, it could alert me to the fact that there is an artisan coffee shop two minutes away and, as an owner of this brand of car, I could get a 20% discount. My reaction would have been: “What a great idea to relax and digest all the information I’ve gathered.”  Another person might view this as a cynical “ad break” and resent the disruption.

Scenario #2: How a Connected Car Could Improve my Weekend Getaway

Now, let’s imagine future possibilities with my new connected car, such as when my wife and I are taking a weekend trip to a coastal resort that we have never been to before.

Picture this: one hour into the trip, my new connected car displays a series of hotel accommodation offers. My reaction would be “too little, too late.”  A different person, having thought of the trip on the spur of the moment, might value the suggestions.

Then, after two hours of driving, my connected car informs me that, with a detour of 10 minutes, we would be able to experience a picturesque heritage site that also has a coffee shop and plenty of parking. I would think that this “sounds like a great idea.” Another person might appreciate the thought but would rather get on to their destination.

Two Key Takeaways for Connected Car Manufacturers

These simplistic scenarios and hypothetical reactions are meant to highlight two key principles for connected car makers:

  1. If vehicle manufacturers want to monetize connected car technology, they need to think outside of the box and consider exploring new digital terrains that far expand the nature and range of support they could offer vehicle owners.
  2. Different types of vehicle owners will have different feelings about giving vehicle manufacturers permission to play in various digital and informational terrains—sometimes, it will be because there are better, more trusted providers of such services and, other times, it will be because vehicle manufacturers are not perceived to be credible facilitators of those services.

Our team has a great deal of experience in this arena as we are constantly deepening our knowledge and capabilities while working with a broad range of automakers. If you would like to learn more, click below to sign up for our newsletter so you can stay up to date with our findings and be some of the first to receive our connected car white paper that will be coming out soon.

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Mark Carpenter
Managing Director, UK

Mark is Joint Managing Director of Escalent’s European office based in Surrey, England. With over 30 years of creativity, experience, and passion for research combined with deep technical know-how, Mark leads business development in Europe in conjunction with Escalent’s global development strategy.