Saturday, 6 May 2017

Infiniti arrives in Northern Ireland as new outlet opens in Belfast

Infiniti arrives in Northern Ireland as new outlet opens in Belfast

INFINITI opened its first retail store in Northern Ireland today.

The opening of the new centre – in Belfast – demonstrates the continuous growth of the brand in the UK and across Europe.

The introduction of Infiniti Centre Belfast brings with it a new partner to the brand: Mervyn Stewart Ltd, which is investing in an all-new site in Boucher Crescent.

Stephen Stewart

Stephen Stewart

The family-run business, which has been operating in Northern Ireland for more than 50 years, will design the premises to tie in with Infiniti’s customer experience standards known as IREDI – Infiniti’s Retail Environment Design Initiative.

The new site is expected to be completed in early 2017 but will initially operate from one of Infiniti’s unique temporary retail sales environments, specifically designed to accommodate a development phase.

Managing director Stephen Stewart from Mervyn Stewart Limited said: ‘We are very pleased to introduce the premium brand of Infiniti to Northern Ireland.

‘I am sure our customers will enjoy not only the exciting range of products on offer but also the environment and experience we will provide.’

Since the introduction of the British-built Q30 earlier this year and the more recent QX30, Infiniti’s new car registrations in the UK have been dramatically increasing month-on-month. Sales so far in 2016 have increased by nearly 150 per cent.

Barry Beeston, regional director for Infiniti in the UK, said: ‘Infiniti is now well on its way to establishing itself within the UK automotive industry as a challenger brand.

‘Increased sales have placed the company as one of the fastest growing automotive brands in the UK. Expansion of the centre network is an important part of our growth strategy and the opening of Infiniti Centre Belfast allows our brand reach to go further than ever before.’

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Galway researchers in push to make autonomous cars safer

Automotive retail is simple: go digital or go bust

It’s time for OEMs to catch up with the financial services and retail sectors, and make online channels work harder – for themselves and their customers, writes Foolproof’s Executive Director, Peter Ballard

The automotive industry has finally embraced the digital experience, and most brands have either launched, or are about to announce, the ability to buy new cars online. But in the race to attract online buyers, it’s crucial to not leave customers out in the cold.

The problem for consumers is that although OEMs may have ‘gone digital’, few have re-engineered the shopping journey to address the many pain points customers encounter when trying to make purchase decisions about their next car.

The issues for consumers do not relate to showroom stock, or fulfilment of online orders; they lie in the lack of support during the buying decision itself, when the majority of customers still do not feel sufficiently in control of the choices and options that manufacturers present in the car buying process.

A recent survey by Auto Trader, a UK-based digital automotive marketplace, found that the majority of consumers, 99% in fact, said they were unhappy with the current car buying process.

Clearly, consumers are more than ready for a change in approach.

Last year’s JD Power survey revealed that millennials accounted for over a quarter of new car buyers in 2015, and this number is set to rise dramatically over the coming years. Millennial buyers have grown up with digital, and bring with them the highest level of expectations for the digital experience, and a preference for subscription-based ownership models.

The automotive industry must take note of established digital practices that are now mature and commonplace in the financial services and retail sectors

Manufacturers that aim to get channels right for this user group will have the best chance of future-proofing their platforms for customers going forward.

Insight generated by Foolproof observing car buyers has highlighted that browsing online and visiting a dealer are not binary choices – consumers expect to do both during their decision-making process. Many even look forward to a trip to the dealer, and make an occasion of it, because they enjoy getting an up close, physical experience of the cars, before making a final choice.

Crucially, what most manufacturers continue to miss is the joining up of the online and offline experiences. Today, too much responsibility for that falls on the customer, asking them to bridge the gap between a website and the dealer.

Customers want to feel in control of the car buying process, and it is here that manufacturers should help them with their research online, empowering them to feel more confident when interacting with a dealer.

A case in point here is Suzuki, a vehicle manufacturer which has taken this knowledge to the heart of its digital strategy. The brand has recently re-launched its UK website to improve the experience customers have with the brand online, and in the transition from digital to the dealership. The OEM understood that customers needed an online experience that would help them make better decisions about the type and grade of car that they wanted to buy, before reaching out to a dealer.

Browsing online and visiting a dealer are not binary choices – consumers expect to do both during their decision-making process

The new Suzuki website works for multiple users, supporting the varying needs of three different potential customer profiles. The first is the buyer who relies primarily on the dealership experience, and appreciates seeing and touching the car, and talking to someone about it; the second, the online shopper, believes the Internet, not the dealer, should provide all of the information to keep them in control of the decision-making process; the third is the multi-focused shopper who likes to mix dealers’ views with independent sources.

Make better decisions faster

Better decision-making for each of these groups lies at the heart of the relaunched Suzuki website. The newly designed site helps customers narrow down their choices to find the car that is right for their needs more quickly, and with more confidence, than before.

During research, customers told Foolproof researchers that they found it difficult to understand the value of buying a more expensive version of their chosen car, when online. Most car websites provide this information over multiple pages, or long feature lists, complicating what should be a clear and easy comparison process. Suzuki has cleverly implemented a side-by-side comparison feature that visually differentiates which key features become available, as the price increases.

It has become clear that overly-complicated car configurators are a major turn off-for many customers. For this reason, the decision to simplify this function was the first part of the design challenge. Suzuki’s new ‘Send to Dealer’ button enables customers to easily send their choices to a local dealer, prior to booking a meeting or a test drive.

Manufacturers that aim to get channels right for millennials will have the best chance of future-proofing their platforms for customers going forward

Not only does this feature bridge the gap between customer and dealer, but it has also improved one of the more arduous tasks in buying a car, namely the test drive booking.

Many commentators have questioned whether the new showrooming approach, trialled by some manufactures in retail outlets, will be the death of the test drive. Auto Trader’s study, however, suggests that test-drives will continue to play an important role in the car buying process: “88% of consumers said they would not purchase a car without test-driving it first.”

However, 80% of consumers also said they would welcome a different test-drive experience from the traditional accompanied test-drive model that predominantly exists today.

In the future, we can expect the booking of a test drive to be as easy as making a restaurant reservation. Customers will be able to book a test drive through their chosen dealer, selecting date, time and model from an online diary.

The future of ownership

Automated scheduling and booking of test drives is one development that will hugely benefit dealers by reducing the amount of time it takes to make booking arrangements with customers. Piloting this new functionality, in addition to continually learning from this initial implementation, will allow manufacturers to pave the way for other future innovation that could use digital channels to streamline the online vehicle buying experience.

For example, car manufacturers are expected to develop more subscription models to help consumers ‘rent’ rather than ‘own’ their car. This will go beyond the traditional personal contract purchase and hire purchase arrangements, and could include monthly subscription fees giving access to a range of cars that customers can book in advance. Date night on Friday? Book the two-door sports model. Carpool to football training every other Wednesday? Book the spacious minivan. Planning a drive on country roads? Book the SUV.

And the winner is…

The automotive industry must take note of established digital practices that are now mature and commonplace in the financial services and retail sectors. These industries have long since discovered the value and importance of experience design, product design, and service design methodologies to help create frictionless, elegant, and truly engaging digital experiences for their customers. The top brands in these sectors understand that customer experience is the best way to differentiate and create a lasting competitive advantage.

Those automotive players that adopt the same principles, as they move in to this improved digital phase, are the ones that will take the lead over their competitors.

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Karma airs first TV commercial for Revero plug-in hybrid

Karma Automotive, of Costa Mesa, Calif., is owned by Chinese automotive supplier Wanxiang Group.
Karma Automotive aired its first TV commercial on Sunday, ahead of the start of deliveries of the Chinese-owned automaker’s $130,000 Revero car this month.

A Karma spokeswoman said she didn’t have a definitive date on when deliveries of the plug-in hybrid Revero will begin, but she said it “most likely” will be the second half of May. She couldn’t specify how many vehicles will be delivered, only that a “very low volume” will be sold in 2017, so “not many” will be delivered this month.

Karma, formerly known as Fisker Automotive Inc., previously said it will sell through independent dealerships and company-owned “brand-experience centers.” Karma has eight U.S. sales and service dealerships: one each in Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and California and two in Florida.

The 30-second TV spot, called “Delivery,” aired on CBS during the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship, for which Karma is a sponsor. The commercial featured Revero deliveries to waterfront mansions in Florida and California.

“The spot marks the rebirth of one of the most honored silhouettes in automotive history,” Karma Chief Revenue Officer Jim Taylor said in a statement. “We felt this moment in time deserved to be recognized.”

The Revero is Karma’s first model. It is priced at $130,000.

Karma Automotive, of Costa Mesa, Calif., is owned by Chinese automotive supplier Wanxiang Group.

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Small Sports Cars Will Save The Automotive Industry

Automotive Infotainment Systems Aren’t Going Anywhere

Acccording to London-based IHS Markit, an information and analysis firm, there’s big growth in the near future for automotive display systems. The firm is predicting a 17 percent jump in such systems in 2017 alone.

In the aptly titled report “Automotive Display Systems Forecast”, IHS Markit is guessing that revenue for center stacks, instrument clusters, and head-up displays will be more than $20.8 billion in 2022. For reference, it was only $9.2 billion five years ago.

Heads-up displays are a fairly small part of that whole segment, but it’s the segment that is expected to have the most growth. What was once a gimmick may become the mainstream as the technology is fine-tuned and perfected. The world’s drivers are going to need head-up displays to keep their eyes on the road…and off of the huge screens in our center stacks.

Automotive technology analyst Brian Rhodes says this predicted growth comes from two main factors. “First are simple volume increases, with more vehicles adding new displays to the instrument cluster and center stack, along with head-up display deployments becoming more common,” he said. “The second area of growth is in the technology value itself, as these displays are becoming larger and more capable—and therefore more expensive.”

So, not only will screens in car interiors become more common, but they’re going to get bigger and fancier than they are now. Some see these infotainment systems as gimmicks or fads, but the market is showing otherwise. We might be able to expect big, Internet-connected screens to come standard on most base-model, entry-level cars in just a few years.

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