Today, many of us think nothing of using our phones to hail a ride, listen to music, book a night’s stay or even find a date. With just a tap on our mobile devices, we now enjoy convenience, transparency and savings at unprecedented levels. Technology has forever changed the consumer experience.

Consumers today demand a customer-centric, mobile-enabled buying experience, as they are accustomed to in different aspects of their lives. But the used car market hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years and remains a painful process for both buyers and sellers. It’s forecasted that in 2015, 45 million used vehicles will be purchased, representing one of the largest pieces of the economy. It’s a huge market with a lack of transparency and broken user experience. Technology can make the process pain free for buyers and straightforward for sellers while eliminating the need for middlemen. 

Read more: Overdue For Disruption


Organizers are constantly looking for new ways to put the “big” in The BIG Show. Over the past 16 years, The BIG Show has been held at higher-quality venues and seen more customer and supplier participation, celebrity appearances and promotional opportunities.

“Every year is a challenge to out-do the previous year’s show, but we always make it happen,” says Jane Donnelly, marketing director for Keystone Automotive Operations, a distributor and marketer of specialty automotive equipment and the company that hosts The BIG Show.

The first BIG Show was held in 1999, one year after Keystone acquired American Specialty Inc. Prior to the buyout, American had held an annual show for its suppliers and customers to come and learn about the latest advancements and innovations in the auto industry. Keystone decided to continue that tradition to better connect its suppliers with customers. 

The BIG Show was originally held at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, N.J., and its success led Keystone to start a second event, BIG Show West, which has been held in Texas since 2011. The following year, the original BIG Show was rebranded BIG Show East and moved to Atlantic City, N.J., and was rebranded as the BIG Show East. It is now held in Washington, D.C.

Read more: The Big Show Preview

Early on in my career as a corporate fleet leasing manager, a senior mentor said to me, “Every individual within the organization has answers and solutions. The knowledge of the many outshines the knowledge of the few. We need every team member involved as a leader.” 

Henry Ford famously asked, “Why is it that whenever I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?” Ford revolutionized the factory floor with his assembly line, but to him, workers were nothing more than “a pair of hands.” 

Ford’s attitude dominated the culture of Detroit for decades even as America’s automotive might grew around the world. Then came the upstart Toyota Motor Company that, with its “lean production” philosophy, dared to challenge Detroit on its home turf. The automotive industry paid attention but, as Gary Hamel noted in his 2007 book, The Future of Management, “Amazingly, it took nearly 20 years for America’s carmakers to decipher Toyota’s advantage. Unlike its Western rivals, Toyota believed that first-line employees could be more than cogs in a soulless manufacturing machine. In contrast, U.S. car companies tended to discount the contributions that could be made by first-line employees, and relied instead on staff experts for improvements in quality and efficiency.”

Read more: Make Everyone A Leader

Consumer demand for premium audio products is at an all-time high due to the rise of streaming services, HD formats and new and reissued vinyl. Music is literally everywhere and all signs now point to the need for richer, more immersive listening experiences.

A recent Nielsen study found that of the 93 percent of Americans who listen to more than 25 hours of music per week, a quarter of that time is spent listening inside the car, which creates a huge opportunity for automakers. Why not leverage that time to engage customers with best-in-class audio and entertainment – drawing them even closer to their vehicles and, ultimately, to the auto brand?

Read more: Raising The Bar

Sometimes it is easy to think that storms, floods, wildfires and other events are things that affect only “the other guy.” But, no matter where your dealership is, you face the very real possibility of a natural disaster.

Any natural disaster can have a profound effect on your business and the local economy, even if your dealership is not directly impacted. The major key to minimizing the impacts of disasters is to have a disaster preparedness plan in place for your dealership.

Read more: Preparing For Natural Disasters

Autonomous cars have the potential to change the driving paradigm. Freed from driving, passengers in an autonomous car will be more interested in the look, feel and functionality of the interior cabin.

To meet this challenge, automakers are rethinking interior car design to accommodate passengers’ free time to engage with electronics and entertainment centers and take advantage of more personal space and panoramic views. Automotive OEMs are seeking to affordably differentiate their vehicles with luxury enhancements and personalized features.
 
High-performance materials will be crucial in helping automakers and suppliers arrive at their destination. In fact, IHS Chemical Insights projects that by 2020 the average car will incorporate nearly 771 pounds of plastics, 330 pounds more than in 2014. Let’s take a closer look at how advanced materials are driving the industry forward.

It’s not the scandal; it’s the cover-up.” We’ve all heard that phrase before: Far worse than a problem is the refusal to acknowledge it or correct it. The same applies to auto recalls. As tragic as a defect can be, it is worse when the manufacturer denies an issue, isn’t forthcoming about it or lags in remedying it.

Vehicle recalls can be a public relations and reputational blow to automakers, but conducted the right way, a recall can minimize car owners’ anguish and even strengthen their loyalty to the manufacturer. Thus, excellent customer service can turn a crisis into chrome-plated opportunity for car and car part manufacturers and dealers to act quickly and with concern.

On the morning of Oct. 8, Tesla Model S owners woke up to find what was essentially a brand-new car sitting in their driveways. 

Sure, all the parts were the same, but for customers who paid the $2,500 activation charge, it was like Santa Musk broke into their garages, tinkered under the hood and delivered the gift of autonomous driving.

As Google continues to refine and test its self-driving car, rumors persist about Apple’s entry into the automotive industry and traditional automakers develop their own systems, Tesla has leaped ahead of everyone by delivering an early version of autonomous driving that consumers can use right now. Autopilot mode is still limited. It won’t work properly if lane markings are faded and can’t react to traffic signals or navigate a turn at an intersection, but it should prove self-sufficient when it comes to highway driving.

Read more: Self-Driving Policy

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