KEITH CRAIN

Technology takes a lot of training

COMMENTARY
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News
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Today's automobile is packed with technology, more than most customers understand. As cars and trucks become more complicated, manufacturers and dealers are going to have to provide more training for customers.

The days of telling a customer all about a vehicle in 30 minutes or less during delivery are gone forever. Not only will a dealership have to spend more time with the customer and everyone who will drive the car, but it will have to set up retraining sessions for later.

It will become more important than ever to create relationships with vehicle owners so that they are comfortable staying in touch with the dealership as questions arise.

It will take time for many customers to understand all the nuances of their vehicles. It will take training and retraining to make sure they understand and are able to take advantage of all the subtle products and features.

A long time ago when BMW introduced its iDrive system, most owners of 7-series vehicles had no idea how to use it to maximum advantage. Ford recently had some problems training customers to use its MyFord Touch system.

I remember an engineer telling me he realized things had gone too far when it took three steps to change the time on the radio. He knew it was time to simplify the vehicle.

I suspect it will only be a matter of time until the vehicle itself may have no interface, no radio, no GPS. It will rely on the customer to sync the vehicle with his or her personal smartphone. It will be the ultimate personalization for each car. It may save manufacturers thousands of dollars per unit by eliminating the system duplication in automobiles.

Cars are becoming more sophisticated and will be a lot more complicated in the future. There will be new challenges for dealers in training customers.

The opportunities for creating interaction with customers have never been greater, but so are the challenges.

These are exciting times for automobile retailers. They will need a whole staff for training customers and explaining to potential customers the benefits of new technology.

If dealers do it right, they will create friends for life. But if the training is not adequate, it will be the best way to lose customers.

Now if only I can get my VCR to stop flashing 12:00.

You can reach Keith Crain at kcrain@crain.com.


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