With a Covid-19 vaccine now on the horizon in the US, business leaders are finally able to start imagining the possibility of a return to normalcy. And while we know how the novel coronavirus pandemic, with its associated state-mandated lockdowns and limitations, has impacted the automotive and mobility spaces, what we do not know is what a return to normalcy will actually look like.
Will air travel return to sardine stuffing and if so how much longer will we be able to fly the spacious aerobuses? How about sporting events? Will the social distancing protocols remain intact, or will they loosen up with a vaccine?
And how about school for the kids?
For now, normal for most is working from home, not going out as much, and keeping our distance from others. Normal is recognizing mainstream media as modern society’s voice of authority, helping your children with Zoom school, and smaller-than-usual family gatherings.
And what about normal in the workforce? Will workers continue working remotely, keeping the need for corporate headquarters from reviving? Will in-person industry events be returning soon and if so, how “normal” will they be?
In last week’s show we talked mostly about how automakers can more effectively connect sales data to marketing exposures and leverage a truly data-driven strategy. This week on the Mobility Tech & Connectivity Show our primary focus will be on how the pandemic could permanently change service departments.
The Mobility Tech & Connectivity Show
Aired Live December 9th 2020
2:05 – Industry News
2:20 – Panel Discussion Begins
3:00 – Closing remarks and announcements
Part I. Industry News
- Ford delaying Bronco SUV to summer 2021 due to Covid-related issues
- GM Gives Itself More Control Over Selling GMC EVs, Buyouts with Cadillac Dealers
- Uber ditches self-driving car plans, sells business to Aurora
- Salesforce to Acquire Slack Messaging Service for $27.7 Billion
Part II. Fixed Ops Strategies Discussion Panel
For our discussion panel this week the theme is Fixed Ops Strategies. Throughout the pandemic, many consumers lost their jobs or were forced to work from home. This kept many vehicles off the roads as much which naturally reduced the need for maintenance and repair, and what people prioritize. And in response, dealers adapted.
Some introduced or accelerated programs they already had in place, such as pickup and delivery, mobile service vans, and touchless customer interactions and sanitization of vehicles.
But after the pandemic ends, which of these programs and best practices will continue, and which will fade away? Even more peculiar, what new processes and technologies should dealers be anticipating in 2021?
To discuss, our Dealer Advocate Ed Roberts re-joins the panel alongside Dan Drews from Auto Remote Direct, which provides keyless entry and transponder key solutions for dealers. Drews is Director of Dealer and Fixed Operations for the company, and Roberts, who is Director of Fixed Operations at a Ford Lincoln store in Florida, was recently recognized as an Automotive News All Star in Fixed Ops. Congrats, Ed!
Sign Up to Be Part of the Discussion and Join the Q&A
Want to be part of the live discussion? You can. The show is facilitated via Zoom and streamed live on YouTube. You can be part of the live discussion and the Q&A by registering with Fixed Ops Strategies, one of six different discussion groups we offer on AutoConversion as part of the Auto Retail Marketing Mastermind Program.
In the News…
The 2021 Ford Bronco is one of the most highly anticipated vehicles from Ford in years. But now Ford is delaying the launch of its upcoming SUV from spring to summer of next year due to coronavirus-related problems in its supply chain.
The postponement of the Bronco is a troubling sign for Ford — and potentially the U.S. auto industry, if problems with suppliers re-emerge due to rising coronavirus cases. The Bronco would contribute nearly $1 billion to Ford’s North American pretax earnings if sales reached 125,000 units, according to sources.
Customer reservation orders for the vehicles were expected to begin Monday. They have now been delayed until mid-January. As part of the delay, customers will now have until March 19 to place their order and agree to a final price.
The company has said more than 150,000 people have placed reservations for the vehicle, which the company previously produced from 1965 until 1996.
For two years, dealership inventory of the Hummer EV will be based on customer orders. For the next two years, GM will be pulling Hummer dealers’ strings, doling out inventory based solely on customer orders and encouraging standardized pricing.
GMC’s EV agreement gives the factory more oversight of the digital retailing process than automakers traditionally have had. Dealers who sign it must authorize GM to process online deposits on their behalf and take “any other reasonable, necessary steps” to fulfill the vehicle reservation.
But the contract restricts dealers from using customer information generated from the reservation for anything beyond that one transaction. The information can be used “solely for the purposes of completing purchase of the reserved vehicle and for no other purpose,” the agreement says.
Such a restriction could stop dealers from contacting customers for service and future sales, lawyers and state franchised dealer associations said.
“We’re giving away a ton of our control to them,” said the GMC dealer who spoke with Automotive News. “It’s like they’re saying, ‘It’s not your customer. It’s our customer.'”
Dealers also are prohibited from responding to reservation requests with automated messages, the agreement says. All communication must be manual. Most dealers use automation — in the form of mailers, emails and prerecorded messages — to market to customers.
Aldred, Reuss and CEO Mary Barra have said that GMC will use no-haggle pricing for the Hummer, which would eliminate one part of the buying process that many customers detest.
The participation agreement doesn’t specifically allow for unilateral pricing, however. It says customers reserve the vehicle with GMC at sticker price, but the final price is negotiated with the dealership at the time of sale.
GM currently has just one EV in the U.S., the Chevrolet Bolt, but it intends to offer at least 20 EV models in North America and 30 globally by 2025. The company has committed $27 billion toward battery-powered and autonomous vehicles over that period, so much of its bottom line will depend on dealers selling EVs at the volumes GM anticipates.
Related Story: About 150 Cadillac Dealers Taking Buyouts
It’s a fork in the road for Uber’s self-driving car business. On Monday, startup Aurora announced it will acquire the ride-hailing company’s Advanced Technologies Group, which has spent the past few years developing autonomous vehicle technology. The deal will bring Aurora’s approximate valuation to $10 billion.
Although Uber exits the sector, it will still hold a minor link to its now-former division. The ride-hailing giant said it will invest $400 million in Aurora to partner with the company and bring autonomous technologies to life. Ideally, Aurora gains funding and a lot of brilliant minds, while Uber gets to benefit from the future technologies when they’re ready without direct oversight. Aurora still plans to tackle commercial trucking with its technology first, but the Uber partnership may have the company primed to capitalize on ride hailing when the time is right.
Business software maker Salesforce will acquire work-chat service Slack for $27.7 billion in a deal aimed at giving the two companies a better shot at competing against longtime industry powerhouse Microsoft.
The acquisition is by far the largest in the 21-year history of Salesforce. The San Francisco company was one of the first to begin selling software as a subscription service that could be used on any internet-connected device instead of the more cumbersome process of installing the programs on individual computers.
Salesforce’s outspoken founder and CEO Marc Benioff hailed the “cloud computing” concept as the wave of the future to much derision initially. But software as a service has become an industry standard that has turned into a gold mine for longtime software makers. Microsoft for one has developed its own thriving online suite of services, known as Office 365, which includes a Teams messaging app that includes many of the same features as Slack’s 6-year-old application.
“For Benioff, this is all about Microsoft,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives. “It’s just clear Microsoft is moving further and further away from Salesforce when it comes to the cloud wars.”
Salesforce has been building on its success in recent years to diversify into other fields, largely through a series of acquisitions that included its previous largest deal, a $15.7 billion purchase of data analytics specialist Tableau Software last year.
Salesforce was also among the companies bidding to buy LinkedIn in 2016 before Microsoft snapped up the professional networking service for more than $26 billion in 2016.
“I think the pandemic’s played a massive role” in paving the way for the deal, Ives said. “The Zooms, the Slacks, the Microsoft Teams, that’s going to be a new part of the workforce.”