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Telematics: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

What is telematics and why should it matter to the automotive aftermarket?
Monday, November 9, 2015 - 09:00
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The answers to these questions are of extraordinary importance to anyone in the automotive repair industry, in particular to the many small independent shops out there that are trying to compete as fairly small fish in a very large pond and survive in a marketplace that is challenging, ever changing and very complex. Telematics in a broad definition is simply wireless communication with a remote vehicle supporting a variety of applications that might include such items as satellite navigation, vehicle diagnostics, vehicle tracking (that would include the ability to monitor driver behavior), integration with the internet and social media and all that goes with that. In other words, telematics is or soon will be converting our cars into oversized, physically mobile smart phones. Telematics have the potential to reshape how the aftermarket engages and interacts with our customers and potential customers but only if we gain access to this emerging arena and only if we challenge the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and the new car dealerships for our share of this growing market. The very good news is that there are a good number of emerging and viable telematics providers; the bad news is that the Automotive Aftermarket has been somewhat slow on the uptake and is far behind.

 Automotive fleets (delivery trucks, buses, public safety) have long sought ways to monitor both drivers and vehicles remotely. Insurance companies have long sought ways of monitoring the habits (braking, speed, and attention to traffic laws) of drivers, rewarding good behaviors with low insurance rates and penalizing bad behaviors with higher rates. Enforcement for a long time was reactive, often not possible until an incident brought the behavior to the forefront. With telematics, both insurance companies and fleet operators are able to continuously monitor driver habits and actions and manage and adapt accordingly.

In a recent conversation John Cave the Telematics Operations Manager at Element Fleet Management said, “Utilizing telematics to improve fleet utilization can provide significant savings by reducing vehicle idling, fuel spend and overall maintenance costs. The benefits of telematics also complement an organization’s social responsibility goals and initiatives. Understanding how fleet vehicles are used by the organization through the use of telematics can allow companies to right size their fleet. Rightsizing vehicle fleets will reduce the corporate carbon footprint. Fewer vehicles on the road mean less waste, less impact on the environment, and an improved total cost of ownership. For some organizations, the upfront cost of telematics can seem like a roadblock or insurmountable investment. It’s important to not lose sight of the return on investment that includes cost reductions, improved safety and enhanced corporate social responsibility. Organizations have a responsibility to ensure that their drivers are safe and are operating vehicles in the best interest of the business. Driver behavior and productivity become easier to manage through telematics. Vehicle use can be monitored, allowing for route optimization, best possible time management, and cost effectiveness. Speeding, harsh driving, and other driver misbehaviors can now be monitored and coached effectively.” 

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