It isn't 'business as usual' anymore
Today's dealers need data; they need data now
Dave Power is the founder of J.D. Power and Associates.
The Internet and widespread embedding of powerful communications and computing technology in the fabric of day-to-day living have shifted the balance of power from seller to buyer. Any business or industry that thinks it can hold up its hands and stop the flood is fooling itself.
Based on my nearly four decades of listening to customers at J.D. Power and Associates, I believe that the auto industry has opportunities to improve the way it harnesses the power of technology to connect with rapidly changing consumer demand and expectations.
Fall behind, catch up
Time after time, the industry scrambles to catch up to evolving market demand - using rebates, no-interest loans and other incentive programs to move vehicles from dealers' lots. It's a vicious cycle that can't be maintained indefinitely.
That situation is troubling because automakers have overcome similar challenges on the operations side. They've adopted just-in-time manufacturing, feedback loops that generate constant quality input, Six Sigma discipline and other tools in the business of producing vehicles.
In a global marketplace that is evolving at an ever-increasing pace, it is past time to establish a routine of analyzing and using real-time market information to guide dealer, industry and automaker decision-making.
For information to be useful, it has to be current. In today's environment, that means today's data, if not this hour's or minute's. If you're selling vehicles in a competitive market - and that covers just about everyone - you need hard, accurate information.
Exactly where should you allocate your advertising and marketing dollars? How well are you performing against your competitors in sales, gross profit and inventory performance for cash, finance and leasing transactions?
Selling in real time
Dealers and automakers have to know all that and much more - in real time - if they are to keep pace with their customers' preferences and capture their dollars. With real-time sales information available in easy-to-understand formats, there is no reason for slow-moving stock to tie up valuable investment and sales space.
When you buy a $2 bottle of ketchup at your supermarket, that transaction is captured, analyzed and fed upstream to influence everything from product design to manufacturing schedules to distribution models and advertising campaigns. A $30,000 car should command at least that much attention.
As the use of real-time data gets as embedded in the customer-facing side of the business as it does in the manufacturing arena, the industry will attain a level of flexibility, responsiveness and information that is designed for today's consumers.
That evolution is accelerating because part of the real translation of "business as usual" today is "change management." When real-time information can be quickly turned into action, we won't have to add "crisis management" to that definition any longer.
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