A Chrysler Group dealer in Jackson, Mich., has turned a 30-second routine into a better way to demonstrate his technology-laden vehicles.
Before the start of each test drive at Extreme Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, the salesperson showing the vehicle asks the customer in the driver's seat for his or her smartphone and -- with permission -- connects the phone to the vehicle's infotainment system.
The salesperson then calls the customer from a cellular phone to demonstrate how easy it is to answer calls with the vehicle's phone controls.
"It takes like 30 seconds to pair a phone," says Wes Lutz, the dealership's owner. "The customers really do love it. I don't know if it gives my dealership an edge, but I think it gives people a new reason to buy a car."
Automakers have spent hundreds of millions developing infotainment systems with smartphone functions, and consumers willingly pay hundreds or thousands of dollars extra for vehicles with that technology.
Buyers of the 2013 Dodge Charger, for example, pay $495 for an option package to add Chrysler's Uconnect hands-free phone system. The package includes a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel and other items.
But at most dealerships, customers don't experience that technology until after they've taken delivery of their new vehicle, and often they don't know how to use it, eroding customer satisfaction.
With Uconnect, when the phone rings, drivers hit a button on the steering wheel to answer. An auto-answer feature lets Uconnect answer without hitting the button.
Lutz argues that the test drive phone demonstration gives tech-savvy consumers another reason to consider a more technologically advanced vehicle.
"It's a compelling reason for consumers to trade cars, even a car that's only 3 or 4 years old," says Lutz, whose dealership averages sales of 60 new and 120 used vehicles a month.
As an added benefit, the demonstration gives the salesperson a callback number if the sale is not completed right away.
Chrysler dealer Lutz thanks Ford Motor Co. for giving consumers the desire to have a car that talks to their smartphones in the first place.
"You have to give Ford credit because they're the manufacturer that brought telematics to light in the American market," Lutz says. "People would ask, 'Ford has Sync; what do you have?'"
While Lutz says he can't say for sure how many cars, SUVs and pickups he's sold because of the smartphone pairing practice, he does know that it has convinced several customers to upgrade their phones when they buy a new car.
"We are converting probably a couple customers a week from their flip phone to a smartphone when they buy their car," Lutz says. "That's how much the people are impressed by the telematics in the car now."