Last week, I had the pleasure of joining some executives at a Microsoft conference about the future of technology in the car business. Mainly, I listened; I would never try to convince anyone that I know anything about high tech.
We're seeing more computers in automobiles, and that will continue. We can thank those computers for giving us cars and trucks that are safer, pollute less and are more fuel efficient. Without computers, we'd still be trying to figure out how to get the most out of our vehicles.
But what was just as much fun was the evening before the conference. I had dinner with folks from dealership-technology-provider Reynolds and Reynolds, including CEO Buzz Waterhouse. When you think of technology, you had better not forget the automobile dealer.
There was a time when a dealer only had to open the doors and run things like a small business to be successful. Not anymore. Today's dealers almost have to be computer wizards to operate effectively.
Cars may get all the publicity when it comes to technology in the auto industry. But it's just as important to make sure that tomorrow's dealership is high tech so it can handle the vehicles as well as the customers.
It all starts when customers drive up to the dealership. It doesn't matter whether they are interested in a new or used car, parts for their car or service work on their existing vehicle.
Technology will touch them and their vehicles from the very onset.
We live in an age of technology. Those who think that only the car is high tech are kidding themselves.
If we expect better service at the dealership with fewer and fewer returns, we're looking at more technology.
If we expect a seamless buying process for the customer today and tomorrow, we'll be using more and more technology.
And if we expect dealerships to be operated with the highest amount of productivity, we'll have to embrace all the technology that's available.
In fact, the technology is already here. We just have to use it.