CarsDiva’s Blog

An Auto Industry Insider’s View…From A Woman’s Perspective

Archive for October, 2012

The Mobile Movement in Automotive (no pun intended)

Posted by carsdiva on October 30, 2012

There’s no denying the trend in mobile marketing is growing rapidly.  Virtually everyone has a cell phone– in fact, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, more people in the world own a mobile device than a toothbrush!  Furthermore, smartphones are quickly becoming the mobile device of choice. Pre-orders for the iPhone 5 topped 2 million in 24 hours, and Apple sold over 5 million iPhones within 3 days of the phone’s launch. Clearly this isn’t just a technological fad, but an integral part of daily life. Meaning– it’s not just about using a cell phone as a means of traditional communication anymore- i.e. making a phone call (or texting– the now more common method of communication.)  It’s a lifestyle– being “tech-savvy” is no longer exclusive to a select demographic. The general public uses a smartphone to access the internet for daily news, sports’ scores and updates, social media, shopping, and the list goes on.  By 2013, it’s estimated that smartphones will be the primary way people access the Internet.

So what does this mean for automotive?  Well according to a Greystrip Media Study and eMarketer, 8 out of 10 auto shoppers use their smartphone in the car buying process. Therefore, this presents a huge opportunity for business/e-commerce via mobile– that is, for those keen enough to ride the [mobile] wave.  The bottom line is that mobile apps represent a critical avenue for conducting business in today’s society.  So what are some of the automotive industry leaders doing?

Ford

As part of a nationwide program, Ford is equipping dealerships (essentially the sales staff) with iPad devices and an app that brings the showroom to their fingertips.  (Yes, Apple continues its quest to rule the world, even in the automotive industry.)  Called the Ford Showcase app, it’s customized to each dealership, and uses real-time information to indicate which vehicles are in stock at that particular store.  The idea is to help the customer find exactly what they’re looking for — trim level, price, etc…, in a quicker, more efficient manner, by providing a method to do so at the fingertips (literally) of the sales consultant, no matter where they are in the lot or store.  Much like a virtual brochure, inventory, videos of available technology, and general product information are all included in the app, and can also be sent directly to the consumer.

So what’s next?  There’s an app for everything, and there’s no exception when it comes to the automotive manufacturers.  However, it’s all about raising the bar. How do you further engage a customer beyond the “traditional” application?  It’s all about the transition from the digital world of experiencing the brand and/or product(s), and connecting it to real life.  In the case of the Ford app, it will hopefully result in a quicker sale at the dealership.  However, [some] manufacturers are doing this via augmented reality experiences.

Augmented Reality (not to be confused with virtual reality)

Let me first explain, augmented reality is, (per wikipedia) “a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data.”  Virtual reality, on the other hand, is when the real world is replaced by a computer-simulated world.  To further clarify, augmented reality is, essentially, a melding of both virtual reality and real life.  That being said, this happens to be the latest trend in automotive mobile applications– what a better way to market to potential consumers, enthusiasts, and brand loyalists than to actually engage them with your product(s), or brand in general?

To mention a few “Leader(s) of the Pack”….

Audi

The first in the auto industry to provide an augmented reality experience was Audi, launching an app for the 24 hours of Le Mans. Integrating the brand with the race, the app allowed consumers to test drive models that have won previous races, including the R8 (one of my personal favorites), R10 TDI, R15 TDI, and R18 TDI.  Designed for the iPhone, iPad & Android devices, the app also provided info about the various teams, as well as technical info on the cars. And the ultimate goal– engaging the consumer (in this case, specifically racing car and sports car fans) on a new level.

McLaren

McLaren Automotive has created an augmented reality mobile app that allows users to “interact” with their P1 concept aero car.  Users can download the app from the App Store or Google Play if they have an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android device.  Then they must go to McLaren’s Facebook page and print off a sketch of the vehicle, which allows them to view the model anywhere around them.  The app uses the smartphone camera to detect the image on the paper, and therefore, by moving the smartphone around the paper, they get a full 360-degree view of the vehicle.  Ok, ok, so I was a bit skeptical of all of this myself, so I tried the P1 app……and YES, it works!  No, it’s not exactly like seeing it live, but I’ll admit, I was impressed!  Kind of reminded me of my younger days and the first time i went to an iMax theater…(but that’s another story.)

Cadillac

The “ATS vs The World” program was a nationwide tour, that included 4 cities- New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco.  Cadillac provided a series of augmented reality experiences in that users could download an app to a smartphone or tablet, then aim their device at a specific mural created for each of the respective cities and “experience” driving the ATS through a course by moving their device. The murals each represented an international city/venue on some of the world’s most challenging roads where the ATS was tested, including the Monaco Grand Prix speedway, China’s G Tunnel, Morocco and Patagonia.

At the end of the day, it’s all about engaging the consumer on a new level.  Not just traditional marketing/advertising, conventional applications, or test driving the car, but experiencing the vehicle in a real-world meets virtual world sort of setting.  Does this help sell more cars?  Only time will tell, but I know one thing, according to VP of Marketing at Cadillac, Don Butler, the ATS augmented reality experience has been activated over 30,000 times.  That’s quite a bit of brand awareness, wouldn’t you say? And I can attest from personal experience, I now know more about the McLaren….

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A Christmas Fantasy… 2013 McLaren 12C Spider

Posted by carsdiva on October 17, 2012

And it’s back again– the Neiman Marcus Christmas book!  The 2012 edition has been revealed, and yes, several things have caught my eye, but I’d like to highlight one item in particular, featured in this year’s catalogue (fantasy section, of course) — a special edition red 2013 McLaren 12C Spider!  Yup you heard it folks.  And only 12 of them will be available, for the mere price of $354,000.

In addition to the vehicle itself, the lucky recipients will get the opportunity to wine and dine VIP-style with the automaker’s Chairman, Ron Dennis, as part of their 3-day, business-class trip to England. (Would you expect anything less?) And along with this, included is a tour of the McLaren Technology Center. Furthermore, they’ll all receive a Neiman Marcus luggage set.

On a charitable note, for every vehicle sold, Neiman Marcus will donate $3,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters– a charity that focuses on mentoring children.

Now for a bit of info on the vehicle… it’s a volcano red convertible (Spider), equipped with special-edition features, and a 616 horsepower (443 lb-ft of torque), V8, twin-turbo engine, paired to a 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission.  Speed tops off at 204 mph and it can go from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds.  The black leather interior is stitched in red, the exterior trimmed in gloss black, and the catalog labels it as “the drive of a lifetime”……no doubt.

Do you have someone special in mind? Or are you interested in being on the “receiving” end?  Well you may want to drop the hint early this year.  Neiman Marcus will begin taking phone orders on October 24th, and delivery is expected in early 2013.

Hmm…yup.  Adding this one to my [fantasy] list!!

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The Greener Side of Things…

Posted by carsdiva on October 14, 2012

In the U.S., there are over 250 million cars, and we all know that cars produce a great deal of pollution, thus the trend toward alternative fuels, [and typically more expensive] hybrids and electric powered vehicles, which are, indeed, more eco-friendly.  BUT, the questions arises, how much greener is an electric car?  Well, did you know that it depends on what city you live in?

The info-graphic below, courtesy of carinsurance.org, illustrates how green your [electric] vehicle is, depending on where you live.  You see, it takes power to charge an electric car, therefore, the energy expended in charging could be leaving quite a significant carbon footprint in the environment.  Do you know if your city is powered by coal?

Are you in the market for a new car and want to do your part to help save the environment?  Check out the graphic below, to determine how much impact an electric vehicle makes on your city.

Image

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Toddler-Friendly Features for the Moms out there….. (as recommended by shopautoweek.com)

Posted by carsdiva on October 1, 2012

Sherrice Gilsbach, shopautoweek.com associate editor, and mother of two, states in a recent press release that her life is “dominated by cars and kids.”  As a mother, she knows what it’s like to be in a long car-ride with kids, and the challenges, particularly toddlers.  Given her areas of expertise, she put together a list of “headache-alleviating” features, as she refers to them, and furthermore, which vehicles are toddler-friendly.

For all of you “moms” out there, I thought I’d share her expertise:

Features at a glance:

1.    Leather seating – easier to clean than cloth

2.    Weatherproof floor mats – prevents absorption– i.e. spilled milk

3.    Adjustable second-row seats – allows toddlers to be within your reach

4.   Cupholders within reach of child-size arms and fingers –  allows a toddler to grab their own cup without the help of mom

5.   A built-in refrigerator compartment – keeps the snacks and drinks chilled

6.    Window shades – nap time?  generally speaking, this also protects little eyes from the sun

7.    Cubbies – any mom can agree–the more storage the better for a toddler

8.    DVD entertainment system – no explanation necessary– keeps the little tykes occupied during the car-ride

9.    Low step-in height – easier for a child to get in and out of the vehicle & easier for you to help them get in and out

10.  Easy-access LATCH connectors – these hooks secure the car-seats, so easy access means easier (and quicker) for you

So which vehicles can these features be found in?  Well, as you’ve probably suspected, they can be found in the quintessential “mom” vehicle– several minivans (top trim levels), like the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and Chrysler Town & Country.  For those of you that stray away from a minivan, you can check out the Lincoln MKT to find these features, or the Buick LaCrosse (a family sedan.)  And for the truck-lovers, the Dodge Ram 1500 may suffice.  To see the entire list of recommended vehicles and check out shopautoweek.com.

A special thank you to Sherrice Gilsbach and shopautoweek.com!!  Here’s to a happy car ride and making life easier for the moms out there!

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