Today's consumers, particularly millennials, have become accustomed to instant gratification when they deal with companies. They can buy clothes with a single click, pay for their morning coffee with a wave of their smartwatch, and in general get any information they want in a few seconds with minimal friction. Now, they are coming to expect the same level of convenience with their vehicle, and purchase decisions are likely to depend as much on the quality of support as the quality of the product.
One feature consumers are likely to want is some sort of voice-activated assistant, analogous to Alexa in the home. A basic assistant would be an artificial-intelligence-powered chatbot that could provide real-time answers to questions about the vehicle as well as alerts and push notifications related to maintenance.
In addition, consumers will expect brand-specific apps, which are becoming increasingly important in the retail sector already. Currently, 67 percent of consumers have at least one such app on their phone, and the average number has doubled (from two to four) in the last year. Like an assistant, a well-designed app will provide car manufacturers with a channel for pushing out highly personalized coupons based not only on historical data but real-time location as well.
Both these modes of manufacturer-customer communication could potentially result in a new revenue stream. It's possible to imagine deals between manufacturers and gas station operators, fast-food companies, hotel and motel chains and other travel-related businesses where manufacturers use their assistants and/or apps to push out location-sensitive deals to drivers and charge for this advertising.
There's another aspect of customer demand that's not related to technology but rather to changing transportation habits and attitudes toward ownership. It's likely that a subscription-based model for personal vehicles will soon experience rapid growth. This will turn dealerships into what amounts to fleet owners, which will mean a totally different relationship between dealers and manufacturers, one that could be highly profitable for both — if done right.