High-end automakers to have different apps for each model. Does that make sense?

  • Does it make sense for luxury automakers to have one app per model, or would it be better to have one app for all?
  • What are the pros and cons of an automaker having multiple apps?
  • Subjective yes, but generally, do high-end automakers fare better with mobile apps or mobile sites?

“In my opinion . . .”

Now I may not be the best person to be objective on this topic because it’s a sore spot for me. See, I am a dyed-in-the-wool performance auto enthusiast and so I believe that all this technology takes critical attention away from driving a car safely and attentively for yourself, your passengers and every other driver around you. But then I am not today’s average automotive consumer—I like the driving experience, which allows me some “windshield time” away from the constant feed of the Internet. To me cars should not be rolling iPads or Facebook and Twitter account.

Mechanically automobiles have never been safer, more efficient, better designed and built than those that roll off of today’s assembly line. That said, however, electronics and apps are the bane of automotive reliability ratings these days. I will admit though that voice command navigation is a godsend, but interfacing with the car’s touch screen leaves something to be desired.

I also wonder how, in a few decades from now, how obsolete this technology will look in the dash of an otherwise nice, well-kept used car? Will these cars be considered classics as, say a thirty-year old ? This kind of technology does not age well and looks outdated as yesterday’s flip phone.

According to JD Power’s 2012 Initial Quality Study, the top four trouble spot categories are:

  1. Audio / navigation / infotainment: 18%
  2. Exterior: 15%
  3. Engine / transmission: 15%
  4. Features / controls / display: 14%

Of course, there’s a big difference between “my navigation system doesn’t work well,” and “my car caught fire on the highway,” but a trip back to the dealer for a fix—any fix—is a mark against consumer satisfaction. In my opinion, auto makers  need to focus on making cars get from point A to point B as enjoyably and safely as possible, while not distracting the driver with the latest in social media and entertainment. However, competition and consumer demand being what it is, apps will be a selling point from here on. Imagine years from now, owning a good used car with 150,000 or 200,000 on it that still runs perfectly but all the LCD screens are blank and/or the applications from twenty years ago are as obsolete as a cassette player in the radio. When this gets sorted in the years ahead, the most successful apps won’t be the most complex or powerful — they’ll end up being the simplest, most intuitive, adaptable and of course, most reliable. JD Power also published this data which are also relevant:

Feature interest without a price quote:

  1. Light emitting diode (LED) headlights: 70%  
  2. Natural language voice-activation: 69%  
  3. Next-generation head-up display: 69% 
  4. Wireless connectivity system: 68%  
  5. Remote vehicle diagnostics: 65%   

Feature interest with a price quoted:

  1. HD radio (at $100): 52%
  2. Enhanced collision mitigation system (at $750): 46%
  3. Wireless connectivity system (at $300): 45%
  4. Surround-view rear-vision camera (at $550): 44%
  5. Personal assistance safety services (at $15/month): 41%

Notice, not unexpectedly, purchase interest declines across all features when a price is introduced. Right now these apps are a little klugy and slow. Looking forward though, I am sure these apps become more sophisticated and ultimately will have a seamless interface with a driver’s your mobile device. When that happens, getting quality info from such apps will be faster, making them far a more valuable part of the automotive engagement and overall quality of the driving experience.

Learn more about Mercedes-Benz’s MBrace at mbusa.com/mercedes/mbrace.

Image credit: MBUSA



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