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The high stakes aftermarket telematics game

Friday, December 22, 2017 - 09:00
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In a recent column I wrote about the impact on consumer choice and the industry-wide business consequences of embedded OE telematics devices. That column was written in the weeks leading up to the Auto Care Association Legislative Summit in Washington D.C.

Thank you and congratulations to those of you who made the trip to call on your elected officials and express to them your position on the issues that matter most to you. In a recent Auto Care Association membership survey, 41 percent of respondents put “Vehicle Data and Telematics” at the top of the list of issues the members are most concerned about.

That concern is well-founded and appropriate. By 2020, 90 percent of the vehicles sold in the U.S. will be equipped with technology that communicates with the OE vehicle manufacturer and their dealer network. The OE dealer network will receive trouble codes and symptoms the moment they occur. You can be sure they’ll use that information to their advantage to proactively market service to the vehicle owner. This will create a disadvantage for the independent aftermarket when it comes to servicing the computer-controlled (nearly everything) components of a modern vehicle.

A lot of aftermarket energy and capital has been invested in developing a safe and secure method for the aftermarket to participate in telematics and give the consumer control and choice in where the data from their vehicle is sent. A technical proposal for a secure vehicle interface (SVI) was presented to Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) earlier this past year.

This proposal, representing the consensus of the major aftermarket trade associations, service organizations, the Equipment and Tool Institute and AAA, got no response from the principal automotive technical gatekeepers for months. When SAE finally responded, the answer was “no.” It didn’t come as a great surprise that the OEs were not warm to a technical proposal from the aftermarket. But, nearly a year was lost to this cycle of proposal – wait – rejection. In the meantime, more connected vehicles are hitting the road that the aftermarket is blind to.

Over the last several years a number of technology companies have introduced plug-in telematics devices or dongles to provide consumers with many of the connected features they crave without the need to buy a connected car. Demonstration videos commonly show a family driving along when their check engine light comes on.

When they safely pull over to consult with the smart phone app or speak with the associated call center, they learn that the code probably indicates a failed oxygen sensor, for example. But, the vehicle is no closer to being fixed and with the assurance that it is safe to continue driving the vehicle, the O2 sensor is ignored – until the next emission test. The vehicle is connected – but the service shop is not.

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