Car Companies: Let Our Data Go!

Posted by Aaron Lowe on January 12, 2015

I was fortunate enough to visit the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas. This year, the show spotlight was on the connected vehicle and the benefits this technology will bring to car owners. In addition to the flashy dashboards and cool apps that will help drivers find a parking space, car companies also talked about the large amounts of data that they will be able to obtain from vehicles through these telematics systems and how this data will help them “personalize” the experience for motorists. While the car companies highlighted the number of services that will be available online for motorists, they did not talk much about how the collection of this data will allow the manufacturer to better develop a relationship with the car owner on service issues. Clearly the unspoken goal here is to retain their customers within the dealer network beyond the usual warranty period when motorist usually bolt for the independent service industry.

During the keynote address at the start of CES last week, the new CEO of Ford, Mark Fields, publicly discussed the huge amount of data available from vehicle telematics systems, talking specifically how this data would improve the ownership experience. He also made the statement as part of his flashy presentation that the car owner should own the data that comes off their vehicle. On the surface, I think that this statement is a positive development for consumers and the independent auto care industry. However, in the next sentence, Fields declared that Ford was the steward of that information and must act responsibly with how that information is shared.

Yes, it is true that Ford and all of the other car companies have a huge responsibility with the data they are collecting; however, a major problem with the current equation is that the consumer really does not own the data because they have no control on where it goes. In other words, when you purchase a vehicle with telematics systems, Ford has full control of the data and the car owner only really has a choice on whether or not that data is shared with a third party and not with which third parties that car owner shares. It’s like your spouse telling you that you have control on what you do on a Friday night, even though the choice is going to the place they want to go or staying home. What control do you really have?

So I have a challenge to Ford and the other car companies. If you really believe that your customers own the data that their vehicles are generating, then back those statements with action that actually give the car owner control of their data, whether it’s with a new car dealer or an independent service facility. While you will be allowing competitors from the service industry to obtain the same information that you receive, you also will be giving your customers choices in how they can get their vehicles maintained and serviced, thus ensuring a better ownership experience.
Keywords: Telematics