Game-changing tech

Could telematics be used to take business away from independents?

Published:  02 March, 2015

By Neil Pattemore

I don't imagine that many of you who are reading this article are unfamiliar with a computer or the internet and how through a connection you can access a lot of information which is of direct interest to you and your business. The modern car has become a 'PC on wheels,' with significant in-vehicle processing capabilities to support a variety of applications that implement and control the proliferation of a vehicle's electronically controlled systems.

Equally, have you ever experienced someone discovering something really interesting that you would also like to know about, but you have no idea how they could have found out about it? How annoying was that! Even worse would be that you knew what you wanted to know, but you had no way of being able to access the information that the other person could. Unfortunately, that feeling may start to become a part of your everyday life when trying to service and repair cars.

The proliferation of vehicle telematics systems, as vehicle manufacturers install in-vehicle communication platforms, will create such a scenario. The VMs are implementing in-vehicle telematics systems, partly to be able to exploit the commercial opportunities that these systems support, but also in preparation for the forthcoming European 'eCall' in-vehicle system that automatically notifies the emergency services in the event of an accident.

You may feel that this is not an important issue for you as you haven't seen many cars in your workshop that are equipped with a telematics system, but for all the wrong reasons, this may not change. As the vehicle manufacturers are able to remain in direct contact with the vehicle owner and monitor the vehicle's condition remotely every time it is being driven, when a service is due, or a fault occurs, the VM is able to directly contact the customer and offer a solution. Something along the lines of, "We see that a fault has occurred with your vehicle, but don't worry, we have booked your car into our dealership next Tuesday at 9am to fix it. Just let us know if this is OK".

You will not know that the problem has happened, but you won't be seeing the car to fix it either. Even if the driver were to call you to say that a warning light has come up on the dashboard, you won't be able to remotely access the vehicle to check what it is and if the vehicle can still be driven safely. When the customer is desperate for a fix, they are likely to go to the easiest place which can provide a solution. Welcome to the world of monopoly through technical innovation!

So, how big is the problem and when will it start? Firstly, it has already started with many European manufacturers already providing telematics services in their new models, including volume manufacturers like Ford and Renault, as well as the premium brands like BMW and Mercedes.

Ahead of the mandatory introduction of eCall from 31st March 2018, new model designs are already incorporating telematics functions - one of which is eCall. The volume of new vehicles that have an in-vehicle telematics system was 15% in 2014, but is forecasted to rise to 60% in 2019 and 89% by 2024, according to the Connected car report -

Quite simply, this is a 'game changing' point in the aftermarket, as the vehicle manufacturer is able to monitor their vehicles and propose a variety of services in a way which has never been possible before. This allows a 'cradle to grave' monitoring of the vehicle and the ability to offer a range of services using their preferred partners, which may not even include their own authorised networks.  Consequently, the aftermarket associations like the IAAF, SMMT, GEA and RMIF are fighting in Brussels to implement an 'interoperable, standardised, secure and open' in-vehicle platform to allow alternative, competitive third party (aftermarket) services to also be possible - a position supported by the European Parliament in the eCall legislation.

However, there are many technical issues to address, especially around safety and security, so the aftermarket, along with many other stakeholders who would like access to in-vehicle data, are working with the European Commission to establish an agreement with the vehicle manufacturers to implement this 'interoperable' platform in the vehicle, together with the means to exchange data with an independent (aftermarket) server, but this is going to be a tough battle.

So, if you really don't think that this is going to be a threat, then just carry on as today, as you may never see the reason for the slow but terminal decline in your business. Alternatively, you could join one of the aftermarket associations who can fight on your behalf, or write to your MEP asking them to support your rights of access to in-vehicle data to be able to continue to offer competitive services, underpinning affordable mobility. The future of the aftermarket could be in your hands.

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