Q&A: Improving the car ownership experience outside of the vehicle

Q&A: Improving the car ownership experience outside of the vehicle

Möreke has been with Volkswagen Financial Services since 2011 and is currently responsible for new business models, automotive-related apps and services, and key partnerships. He previously worked as a senior sales manager for T-Systems Traffic, now part of NAVTEQ, and a business development manager for Volkswagen.

He spoke with TU’s Jan Stojaspal about using the smartphone to reach customers while they're away from the vehicle and about speeding up the launch of new connected services. He also reflected on how changing mobility patterns start to sideline car ownership in favor of flexible rental plans and car sharing.  

What is your perspective on the use of smartphones as a new space for interaction with customers?

Traditionally, OEMs were interacting with customers while they were in the car or at the dealer. Now, thanks to the smartphone, we are able to tell them, ‘Get in your car 15 minutes earlier because a traffic jam is imminent.‘ This ability to reach customers while they are away from their vehicles has given us a couple of new things to work with.

One thing is providing relevant information before they get into the car, and after they leave it. This is, for example, information that gets them from the car to their final destination. The other thing is we can use portable devices that are tied to the vehicle for new services. This is really the fun part of smartphones for us as an OEM. We are thinking about car sharing, we are thinking about rental models. You can actually improve the process of renting with smartphones, when you start using them for information, for booking, for payment, for door open and door close.

How much of this is already in place?

There are various projects happening at Volkswagen group at the moment. For example, Volkswagen just launched the iBeetle app. You can have a lot of fun using your iPhone. You have a special docking station, you can stream media, you can share information, etc.

We, at financial services, are doing several things as well. We provide fuel prices, real-time traffic and commuter information through an app called AutoKarte. We have a car-sharing pilot in Germany with Quicar. And we have apps that let you book online, check if a car is available, stuff like that. We will expand this by going more into fleet management, where it’s about optimizing total cost of ownership and providing information about cars, again through mobile devices.

What are some of the advantages of using the smartphone?

For an OEM, time-to-market is an issue. This is why we rely on the smartphone. It’s a lot easier to get things started. But, of course, it will be more convenient, more sophisticated once we have a particular solution fully integrated in the car. Still, it’s not an A or B decision, it’s A and B.

It is our understanding that some of these changes are reflective of changing mobility patterns. Car ownership becomes less important. Rentals and car sharing come to the fore.

We see this happening especially in large, metropolitan areas, where it’s a hassle to find a parking place. It gets you thinking about driving a car without looking for a parking spot and paying for parking. This is where car sharing kicks in. But it’s not just private customers who are changing. It’s also companies. They too want to have more flexibility in their fleets.

We are talking about the smartphone being an important enabling technology. Are there also financial benefits for your company?

There is not going to be too much more money in it. It’s just changing the way the money is made.

That’s surprising. Our assumption was that you would be able to sell more services by knowing your customers better.

One thing is that we are actually very aware of privacy concerns. We are not touching anything that people don’t want touched. But, of course, we are learning things. We are learning what people like to use and what they don’t like to use. We are using this to get to know our customers a lot better.

Are there plans to share some of that data through APIs and to involve the larger developer community in the making of new apps? Or is the plan to do most of the development in-house?

We are testing both, but privacy is very critical. When there are services like traffic information, parking information, infotainment, we don’t necessarily have to do these ourselves. But we will not share the critical stuff, the interaction with the car or the direct interaction with the customer. There is a lot of very sensitive data, and this we will not give to outsiders.

Jan Stojaspal is the editor of Telematics Update.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out V2V & V2I for Auto Safety USA 2013 on July 9-10 in Novi, MI, Insurance Telematics USA 2013 on September 4-5 in Chicago, Telematics Russia 2013 in September in Moscow, Telematics LATAM 2013 in September in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan 2013 on October 8-10 in Tokyo and Telematics Munich 2013 on November 11-12.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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