Are carmakers ready to stop flirting with customers and get serious?
This isn't just middle school locker room talk. New mobility-as-a-service models such as ride-hailing and car-sharing are changing how automakers relate to their customers. Right now, companies see their customers every half decade or so. In the new mobility world, they'll need to change their status from "just friends" to "in a relationship."
At the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., this week, manufacturers and suppliers said they are preparing to reinvent themselves in new markets. Companies will need to study consumer behavior so they can provide services people want, rather than add to the noise of the raucous mobility scene.
This customer relationship is a particular challenge to automakers, which operate in a market where customers buy cars every five years -- if that. And these transactions occur mostly through franchised dealerships, removing the manufacturer further from the end consumer. They also face stiff competition with companies that have extensive direct-to-consumer experience. Tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple interact with customers on a daily basis and can intimately track behaviors and preferences, allowing them to recommend products and constantly improve service.
If automakers want to compete in a service-based business, they'll need to be able to leverage this type of knowledge, allowing them to cater services to individual lifestyles.
Analysts say it's possible for automakers to foster the close relationship tech companies hold with the end consumer. However, currently, you can generously say, "It's complicated."
— Katie Burke