Dealerships are vulnerable to cyberattacks because they generally have weaker security protocols and don't invest the time and money to enhance them as they should.
That's one of the takeaways from a panel discussion I hosted this month with dealership leaders, information technology consultants and auto retail software vendors — part of our fall Retail Forum: Dealer Discussions series.
I often write about the technology and human processes that are necessary to successfully transition dealerships to digital vehicle sales, including the information required of consumers to tailor a transaction to their preferences so that it's seamless. Yet consumers also are paying closer attention to how their data is used — and more states are following California's lead and adopting laws governing consumer privacy.
There's an inherent tension in that. The key to overcoming it, panelists said, is to be transparent with customers about how their information will be used.
"We're always going to have trade-offs between the convenience and the security and also the privacy," said Michael Alf, general manager of St. Charles Toyota in Illinois.
"We could make it really secure, but they're not going to be able to do anything but come to the dealership. They want to buy online," Alf said during the panel discussion. "They want to be able to start their car remotely from their phone. They want to be able to use their phone to open up their car or be a car key. As we start to move forward, we're going to have to make those decisions and explain to the customer. Keep it transparent: 'Well, if you like this, then you're going to have to hand this data off to us.' And we need to make sure it's secure."
That trade-off is likely here to stay, as digital vehicle sales are, too.