You may not have paid much attention, but the Power Information Network is cutting back on the information it gives to news reporters.
The upshot is that the public won't get quite the same great look at what's going on in showrooms across the country.
The Power Information Network, or PIN, is an affiliate of J.D. Power and Associates that was spun off nearly two years ago. It collects a wealth of detailed real-time retail data about who's buying what from 6,200 dealerships in the United States. PIN slices and dices the data, then sells it to automakers and other companies, such as banks, finance companies and big dealer groups.
It may not sound exciting, but this kind of data helps product planners and marketing types figure out what consumers are looking for today, and what they might want tomorrow.
For several years, the company has shared detailed PIN data with Automotive News and other media organizations writing stories about retail sales or trends or even the demographics of customers who buy specific models.
There are other sources for some of this information. Art Spinella of CNW Marketing, which largely uses survey data, and Jeremy Anwyl of edmunds.com, which uses Web site data from new-car shoppers, are often used as sources by reporters.
But PIN data is highly valued because it's transactional data from dealerships that represent a near-perfect cross-section of all U.S. dealerships. PIN measures demographic information about the buyer, information about the age, make and value of the trade-in plus data about the method of financing used, transactional prices, dealer grosses, F&I products purchased and much more.
A week ago, right before the holiday weekend, PIN execs decided to give reporters only general information about industry segments.
It was a strategic decision that PIN no longer needed public exposure, says PIN's Tom Libby. Some PIN customers had questioned why the company released so much data to the public but there was no specific pressure from customers, Libby says. As a consulting company serving business clients, it's OK to be invisible to the public, he says.
PIN data has been useful to reporters, but it also helped bolster the Power name each time it was used in print or on the air.
That's important because of the greater J.D. Power and Associates business model, which includes among other things surveys such as the Initial Quality Survey and Customer Service Index. Power needs the public to fill out its survey forms. And the Power surveys, which now reach well beyond the auto industry, are strong revenue sources partly because the public knows the Power name and survey champions pay a fee to use Power survey results in ads.
On Tuesday, J.D. Power and Associates said that the PIN changes would not affect J.D. Power and Associates or the release of IQS, CSI or other survey data, which is highly publicized.
Losing access to the PIN data means reporters won't be able to pursue some types of stories, unless we develop other sources.
It's too bad, but it's understandable. PIN data is commercial information. The public does not have a right to know. The First Amendment does not apply.
All it means is that edmunds.com and Art Spinella will get a little more ink, while the Power Information Network will get less.
And CNW Marketing and edmunds.com are more than happy with that.