Time to get motoring

The Spring traditionally sees a peak in car sales, thanks to the issuing of new registration plates. This year has been no exception, with 394,806 new vehicles sold in March 2013 – a 5.9% increase on last year, and the 13th consecutive month of Y.O.Y. growth.

Of course the industry has its problems, ranging from rampant competition, environmental concerns and over-production.  But given the state of the economy, these are pretty good sales figures for such a big ticket purchase.  More importantly, they are significant numbers for the entire marketing community, not just those who are directly involved in the motor business.  Here’s why…

Like many other devices, cars are increasingly becoming connected appliances.  But unlike most household objects – think of the intelligent forks, toothbrushes and fridges that are showcased at technology fairs these days – the high price tag of a car can justify the cost for manufacturer and consumer alike, and the multi-dimensional nature of the driving experience allows for a host of genuinely useful applications.

For instance, cars will increasingly communicate with each other about driving conditions; with manufacturers about technical issues; with news organisations about traffic problems and with commercial partners about geo-targeted opportunities for the driver.  To put that in practical terms, your vehicle will soon be telling other cars that there’s ice ahead; notifying your garage that the tyres could do with changing; asking the AA about the traffic jam in front and offering you discounts on the restaurants along your route.

Industry bodies estimate that by 2020, connectivity will account for 20% of the value of the global car market.  But this technology is already commonplace, with almost all new cars coming as web-enabled, within the next year or so.  Hence all the motor manufacturers are already investing huge sums in the field.  As are all the major tech players like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel and IBM.

However, what’s really interesting is the opportunity for the rest of us.  The car is rapidly becoming a medium in its own right.  And a pretty major one at that, given the sales figures noted earlier and the fact that the average Briton spends around 10 hours a week in their vehicle (the American figures are about double this).

So as the car becomes “the 4th screen” behind the TV, computer/tablet and ‘phone, we will have yet another channel to consider, whether as an advertising medium, promotional forum, behavioural mechanic or utility.  From the insurance company who rewards good driving to the coffee brand who alerts people if they nod off at the wheel, it seems that it’s not only motor brands who will need to get motoring from now on.

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