The era of the connected car is here, and it offers both opportunities and risks for the independent garage sector.
Put simply, connected cars are cars that are connected to the internet. But the consequences of what might seem like a simple innovation are wide ranging.
An internet connection allows the car to share information with devices inside and outside the vehicle, autonomously of the driver. In a word, it lets the car ‘talk’ to other cars, organisations and driving infrastructure.
For the motorist, a connected car offers a range of benefits. For independent garages, it offers both opportunities and one very real risk.
Perhaps most importantly, connected cars promise a new era of safe driving. Connected cars collect data about conditions outside the vehicle, and can alert the driver to potentially dangerous situations. They can even take action autonomously to avoid accidents before they occur.
By talking to each other and the motoring infrastructure, connected cars may be able to help drivers avoid congestion and roadworks, giving them information on the fastest, shortest route to any destination in real time.
Connected cars can also send data direct to garages, allowing problems to be diagnosed remotely. The car will analyse its own performance and alert drivers of the need for a service or tune-up.
Risks for garages
There are clear opportunities for garages who stay up to date with the latest innovations in vehicle technology and can offer to analyse and diagnose connected car data.
But organisations like the IAAF (Independent Automotive Aftermarket Organisation) warn that the connected car revolution represents an opportunity for vehicle manufacturers (VMs) to try and undermine the motorist’s right to choose. Connected car data could be used to push dealership services to drivers ahead of independent alternatives.
A real threat
In fact, the IAAF believes some VMs are already using connected car data to rig the market against the independent sector. This threat was a constant theme of the IAAF conference earlier this year.
New BMW models, the conference heard, alert drivers of the need for an oil change and provide information on local dealerships and even book them in via the dashboard, taking consumer choice away.
Similarly, some connected cars can send data to the manufacturer after a collision or breakdown, instructing their own repair organisation to collect it. Again, this takes away choice from the motorist.
Experts believe that examples like these could be just the start, and that the threat is real and increasingly current. Connected cars collect and broadcast reams of data. Who has access to that data, and what services they can offer based upon it, will be crucial for the health of the independent garage sector in the next few years.
What garages can do now?
As well as staying up to date with the latest industry training (AutoCare garages have access to some of the best courses in the business) garages must continue to promote the motorist’s Right2Choose.
Garages can display a Right2Choose poster in their premises and give customers Right2Choose leaflets. There is more information on promoting consumer choice on the Right2Choose website.
Right2Choose is simply that. Whatever the complexity of their vehicle and whatever the future of the connected car, drivers should always have the right to have their car serviced or repaired in any qualified garage, without it invalidating their warranty.
That includes all Approved and AutoCare Garages, which only use original equipment or matched quality parts, so customers’ warranties are always protected.
In the era of the connected car, promoting that message is more important than ever.