As safety, connectivity and EV technologies rapidly evolve, automakers and dealerships say they are allocating more resources and exploring new ways to coach owners on how their vehicles work.
The goal is to help them get the most out of new technology and cut down on the distracted driving that comes from using the technology.
A 2017 study by the University of Utah found that the complexity of the touchscreen interfaces in vehicles significantly increased distraction. David Strayer, lead scientist in the study, said the increase in the technology and complexity of vehicles over the prior two to three years was “staggering.”
The study tested 30 vehicle infotainment systems and found that users needed an average of 40 seconds to program the navigation system. Moreover, each system required that the driver divert attention from the road to interact with the commands.
THE TRAINING CHALLENGE
Dealers are important for technology acceptance, according to a 2017 J.D. Power study, but there are significant roadblocks to that learning.
“While owners are excited by new vehicle technology, they are also often confused by it,” said Kristin Kolodge, J.D. Power’s executive director of driver interaction and human-machine-interface research.
For every technology measured in the study, satisfaction is higher when owners learn to operate that technology from their dealer, the study found.
“However, the time owners are willing to spend at the dealer for delivery is limited — sales satisfaction generally begins to decline after 25 minutes, indicating that dealers have to prioritize their time with what technologies they explain and demonstrate to new owners,” Kolodge said.
To help buyers with technology away from the store, Toyota Canada has made available a series of videos online, titled “Know Your Toyota,” to help new owners understand specific functions of their vehicle, such as the company’s new Entune infotainment system.
Romaric Lartilleux, a spokesman for Toyota Canada, said vehicle delivery is designed to be interactive and tailored to each customer.
“We have processes in place that include a presentation of the various safety systems of the Toyota Safety Sense as well as the Entune technology,” Lartilleux wrote in an email to Automotive News Canada.
“We help customers pair their phones with the handsfree system and Apple CarPlay and introduce them to the Entune system and related service.”
Scott Chapman, business manager at Porsche Centre Calgary, said the dealership schedules meetings specifically to explain technology to customers. Sometimes more than one meeting is needed, especially when it comes to luxury vehicles.
“Once we know the car is on its way, we schedule a pre-delivery meeting with the buyer to go over various technologies. This way they get a glimpse of the major functions and how they can be used, before delivery.
“There’s also an app they can download which provides detailed information on the operation of their vehicle’s features. This app can serve as a quick reminder for different functions after purchase as well.”
When the vehicle arrives, delivery specialists will spend 30-90 minutes explaining the car to the new owner, Chapman said. Most of that time is spent on the infotainment system.
“Some clients like to spend as much time as possible going over everything. Others prefer to get the basic information now and come back later if they have questions or need a demonstration of a specific feature. We believe in tailoring the learning experience to each client.”
The automaker is also providing training to its dealers, Chapman said.
“Porsche wants us to be able to answer questions when a customer walks in. We use online training programs to familiarize ourselves with recent technologies.”
Advanced vehicle drivetrains also have a learning curve. At Nissan dealerships certified for electric vehicles a dedicated expert is available to answer questions and tell new owners about the Leaf EV, said Ken Hearn, Nissan Canada’s director of customer quality and dealer-network development.
“At the delivery, the Leaf specialist is able to educate the customer on the use of the technologies offered in the vehicle [and] also on the charging operation, as well as provide the customer with tools to become familiar with the charging network on the roads.”
Managing Editor Grace Macaluso contributed to this report.