When I was checking @AJTheFiesta’s twitter stream the other day, I learned that AJ was hungry (“AJ needs food. (Fuel level is 24%)”), and was having a generally good day (“No rain…no pain! Current conditions: fair (day)”). For a split second, I forgot that AJ is one of two net-connected 2011 Ford Fiesta test cars on the roadtrip of a lifetime.
Editor’s note: Headlightblog.com recently caught up with TJ Giuli, pictured at right, not long after his panel presentation at SXSW titled Dude this is my Car. TJ is a research engineer at the Ford Motor Company’s Infotronics Research and Advanced Engineering organization in Dearborn, Mich. His research interests lie in mobile computing and secure, privacy-preserving vehicular software architectures. His recent work involves architecting research software platforms to enable third-party software development on cars. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University. He was interviewed for Headlightblog.com by Kyle Outlaw, a regular contributor and UX lead at Razorfish who is also one of the agency’s subject matter experts on mobile.
Toyota is in the midst of the most widely discussed automaker recall in recent memory, and this seemingly Greek tragedy is still unfolding. The Toyota recalls of the past six months, two related to acceleration (floormat entrapment and sticky pedals) and one to braking on the 2010 Prius, have been the most publicly known and popularly debated automaker recalls since perhaps 2000, when Firestone tires were linked to more than 100 deaths.
Automotive consumers have been asking for change for a long time. Changes that improve how they shop, how they buy and, most importantly, their overall experience and satisfaction. Instead of selling through their customer base year after year, smart dealerships have been listening to their guests.
There’s no question that Toyota is in deep trouble with its current recall crisis. But could these issues actually be helping its brand? Shockingly, an analysis of Toyota shows that its Social Influence Marketing (SIM) Score saw an uptick in January. Who’d have thought that a crisis of such significant magnitude could actually help a brand’s perception? This seems to be true, at least in the short term, even though sales may be dropping. Let me explain how.
A recent research report from Borrell Associates projects that the total U.S. ad spend for new cars will rise to $19.2 billion this year from the low of $18.4 billion in 2009. Of that total spend, franchised car dealers account for the majority of all auto ad dollars spent online. In 2009 they spent about $3 billion online, compared to $1.7 billion for manufacturers.
At this point most automotive marketers know that search marketing is an incredible vehicle for reaching their target customers. It’s highly relevant, highly targetable and is generally one of the most efficient and effective channels in a marketer’s ad mix. The problem with search marketing, though, is that it doesn’t scale beyond the level of user-initiated searchers. For most businesses, this is a problem, especially when their search-marketing campaigns are mature as are most campaigns of OEMs who have been active in the search space for many years.
Mercedes-Benz mbrace, a new telematics platform that Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) launched recently, is the first such system to have a companion mobile application. The app lets registered mbrace customers lock and unlock vehicle doors as well as locate their vehicle from within the vicinity of one mile. The app also lets owners contact their preferred Mercedes-Benz dealership or locate dealers in the U.S. by proximity. It provides dealer name, address, phone number and even pinpoints their location on a map. The click-to-call functionality allows for easy access to the mbrace Customer Response Center, Mercedes-Benz Customer Assistance Center and Mercedes-Benz Financial. Users must be active Mercedes-Benz mbrace subscribers to use the companion mobile application.
Editor’s Note: Headlightblog.com recently caught up with James Spahr, a UX Lead at Razorfish and pictured below, who has been working on the Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) account since Razorfish was selected as the digital agency of record in January 2009. This past summer James worked on a mobile website for MBUSA as part of the agency’s work to support the 2010 E-Class launch. He was interviewed for Headlightblog.com by Kyle Outlaw, a regular Headlightblog.com contributor who is also a UX lead at Razorfish and one of the agency’s mobile subject matter experts.