CarsDiva’s Blog

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

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?


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”….


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 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.)


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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