This year the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas once again broke attendance records for a convention / trade show. Additionally, while many automakers and suppliers were gearing up for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), they also hosted simultaneous booths at the consumer trade show. This represents a continued belief that automakers need to match consumer demand for more tech-forward vehicles.
While this doubling-down on consumer tech doesn't guarantee that all of these concepts will make a difference on the retail auto industry, it's important that dealers be aware of these trends and plan accordingly. Some of the major trends this year at CES included:
Autonomous: While we're some years away from fully autonomous vehicles roaming the roads, CES 2017 had an eye towards what technology is ready now, including semi autonomous features. Does your sales and delivery staff know what features are equipped now? Do they know how to demonstrate these features, like autonomous braking and self-parking, to consumers? Does service know how to differentiate between something being broken and a poorly trained consumer? Getting your staff ready to review what capabilities do exist can create a more progressive look for your store and protect against untrained consumers.
Connected: Infotainments systems are nothing new, but each year brings more advanced systems to the new vehicle lineup. Are we reviewing year to year changes with sales associates, including model specific technologies? Are we fully explaining to consumers the proper way to setup these devices, including the myriad of subscription services often required to make them function fully? Part of the reason that Tesla has become a consumer darling is that it's owners are very well trained on how to use and explain what makes their vehicle advanced and different.
Virtual Reality: With Samsung announcing that it has 5 million of its GearVR headsets already in the market, it appears that VR is becoming a more mainstream trend. While it's not necessarily clear that this will have an immediate impact on the dealership, we already know that 1/3 consumers would buy a car without a test drive, so we should consider how the model changes when consumers can "test drive" a car in the comfort of their own home.
There were many additional trends (drones, wearables, etc.) and many more to come, which is why it's important that the retail auto industry keep our eyes open on them and plan for how these developments will impact our business going forward.