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Why Do You Do It?

This morning we have The Colonel with us, he has not been around for some time, been a busy guy lately from what we hear.

Lets get him going with a few questions, and dispense with the niceties. Its a One on One with The Colonel.

Q: Colonel why do you do it?

A: Guys you mean Strada...simple PASSION, and after all these years there is even more passion.

Q: How much time do you spend/invest in Strada?

A: Depends on what is going on, a few hours...lets leave it at that.

Q: How come you are not a member of any club/association/guild?

A: Simple...STRADA is the publication, its the platform, agreed its a boutique publication. A free lancer needs to belong to "something" to provide a base, foundation. As you know we belong to Strada...

Q: You always mention that one needs to be their own editor, there are a myriad of pundits publishing on a myriad of platforms.

A: Absolutely, in some respects its a good thing (disseminating news), in others there is a ton of sh#t floating around. Fascinating when you apply pressure to "pedestrian" knowledge it quickly recedes.

Q: There's a ton of pundits disseminating pedestrian knowledge.

A: Its the nature of the Internet and Social Media there is a substantial layer of pedestrian knowledge being disseminated...that its probably disintermediating real knowledge. Think about that for a moment.

Q: Pedestrian disintermediating real...its thought provoking.

A: Yes is..but for another time.

Q: You mention boutique to expand?

A: If an individual wants to read comments, editorials that will provoke their thinking they will find Strada interesting and informative, and incite them to be reflective. In essence Strada is not for everyone...its never been for folks that are seeking pedestrian knowledge.

Q: Perhaps at times you are too far ahead of the 8 Ball?

A: some respects its not a good thing to attract more eyeballs. Its the editorial direction of Strada. We push the envelope, ask questions that raise a thought process.

Q: Your thought leadership might intimidate some folks?

A: Sure it does...not the best for eyeballs, but great to uphold the editorial position. We have not wavered in countless years now.

Q: Being ahead of the 8 Ball provides a competitive advantage in the auto business.

A: That's what its all about, its a competitive business, everyone is seeking an advantage. By the time its pedestrian knowledge its no longer ahead or an advantage...need I say more.

Q:Some folks might have a challenge grasping being ahead.

A: Sure they do...the reason we are a boutique publication.

Q:Do you have some examples of being ahead.

A: Wow that's a loaded question. 1- We mentioned a few months ago that low oil, low CDN dollar, presumed cheap gas, higher food prices were on the immediate horizon...most folks were talking about cheap gas presumably saving consumers a ton of money. 2- Long loan terms provide mobility not ownership...most folks relate long loan terms to longer lasting vehicles.

Q: Do you rattle cages?

A: If sharing prescient thinking, being on a thought leadership vector rattles cages, let the folks that feel rattled catch up and get ahead of the 8 Ball.

Q: Its still PASSION?

A: Absolutely...a ton of passion.





2015 Canada Digital Future

If you are conducting business in Canada its a must read.

From comScore...

This annual landmark report explores how the prevailing trends in in web usage, multi-platform engagement, online video, and digital advertising are shaping the Canadian marketplace and what these trends mean for the year ahead.




Marketing The Mercedes Way

Informative interview from McKinsey that provides insight and perspective on how Mercedes-Benz is directing their customer interface.

Being in the people business remains the constant.





The Narrow Perspective

We continue our conversations with The Colonel this week.

Q: Colonel, we notice that most automotive pundits take a narrow perspective, overlooking many relevant factors and variables.

A: really want to get me going and rant this morning. Narrow perspective is being polite on your part. Perhaps most folks are trying to keep it simple when its increasingly complex.

Q: The auto business and the product is evolving into a complex environment of interconnectedness.

A: Yes it is, but until you talk about disconnected, presumably stand alone points/facts its simpler, and easier. Communicating disconnected morsels, while generating content.

Q: Its a narrow perspective, and misses the full spectrum.

A: Yes it does...way back in the day everyone knew something about cars, there was a ton of pedestrian knowledge (if you could call it that) floating around. Its not different today, there is a propensity of pedestrian knowledge being disseminated on a daily basis.

A: The product is increasingly complex, and disruptive. The business is moving into another phase, and stage.

Q: Yes it is...I agree. The pedestrian knowledge is at least one phase behind; primarily dealing with the past. Its driving with the rear view mirror.

A: Folks in the auto business go to a myriad of conferences, and derive a myriad of take aways.

Q: Its the human condition that if its communicated at a conference its "valid". Conveniently omitting that by the time it reaches a conference its pedestrian knowledge, its mainstream, its common, it lost its edge.

Q: There's content in Strada from years ago, that is disseminated today as novel perspectives.

A: Glad that you guys understand...that Strada is ahead...we don't follow, we lead.

Q: Could you call this pedestrian knowledge a form of "autotainment" (automotive entertainment)?

A: Absolutely, publications need to generate content, need is say more....

Q: If you omit to connect a few points/perspectives there is the real possibility of arriving at the incorrect conclusion, conveying the wrong message.

A: Brilliant deduction...there is a lot of s%&t going around.

Q: Its probably easier to monetise, and attract advertisers if its simplistic, while missing the real issues.

A: You have a point...probably is easier to monetise.

Q: Easier to disseminate "morsels", to try and monetise narrow perspectives, to bow down to guilds.

A: Yes...and its archaic, its bureaucracy, its upholding the past while suffocating the future. I can keep on going...better stop.

Q: Do you think it will change?

A: I don't think so, its an established order, the bureaucracy, the guilds, the narrow view, its enduring. Keep in mind that change requires an additional effort.




Social Media Paradox

We have been proponents of the Internet for dealers literally from 20 years ago. Back when a web site was a novelty, e-mail went unanswered, and so on. Obvious we were on the cusp of social media from its early days of idealism (same as the internet) to now where its a rigid structure. 

It took how many years for dealers to have a strong internet presence, and to literally have a digital dealership? 

Yes you can ask the same question for social media.

If you go by the various "digital trends" that float around, come and go, are evangelised by various pundits. The entire retail auto business revolves around digital dealership, social media, smart devices, online chat, SEO, compelling content, BDC, and we can keep on going. 

If you are seeking eyeballs, mention "digital" and anything automotive, and the eyeball count just increased dramatically.

Here is the deal:

After 20 years many dealers rely on a host of 3rd party providers/suppliers for many aspects of their digital presence and activity. The same for their social media presence. In the early days of social media manufacturers took a strong interest in the "social". Like most instances of technology and automotive, a few years later the ROI could not be rationalised. Which led to "Lets go back to the traditional way of doing things".

Are we digressing?

In Canada, we have a record year in auto sales...never been seen before...ever.

How do dealers close deals and move iron? More important how does CMS (Citizen Main Street) close the deal? 

The digital aspect of the automotive intelligentsia would like you to believe that it was done over a smart device...and we could keep on going.

The brick and mortar side of the intelligentsia wants you to believe that its the multi million dollar facility, the special tools, the LED lighting.

Increasingly how does CMS close the deal? How does the dealer move the iron?

The decade old "sales event" / "private sale".

Think about this for a an age of social media, multi million dollar brick and mortar, savvy customers that spend hours online, inspired product, free flowing money.

Increasingly dealers need to hold a "3 day bazaar" to close deals, move iron.

CMS waits for the 3 day bazaar, especially the one near month end to close the deal.

If you are a manufacturer that needs an edge, have some dealers with fatigued facilities, do not have all the consumer financial tools, what do you do to move iron in a competitive environment.

Simple...hold regular 3 day bazaars...observe your Canadian sales go through the roof, month, after month.




Vroom Room

Good Morning!

Ring Brothers "Recoil" - 1966 Chevelle - Click on Photo for articleIts Friday, its the Vroom Room, make yourself comfortable enjoy the cappuccino and biscotti, join the conversation, leave a comment.

Yes...its the middle of the month, and time is the great equaliser for everyone. 

If you are seeking anything, literally anything use the "search feature" of our publication you might be surprised as to what will come up.

If you are an auto enthusiast, a gearhead, have an interest in cars. You have noticed that most folks are more interested in convenience, practicality, than fun in a vehicle. Its the new paradigm of having a "transportation appliance" than a vehicle that arouse the emotions and passion. 

Lets go a step further the connectivity of the vehicle, the connected safety, the infotainement will increasingly dictate the popularity of vehicles. 

Yes...anybody can make an "appliance" that goes from A to B with reasonable comfort, safety, and keep the occupants connected...what do you think. 

We always mention that you have to be your own editor. Have you noticed that when events capture the imagination everyone jumps on the "event wave" seeking a few nano seconds of fame, recognition, and the glare of the spotlight. 

If you live in a cold climate, hopefully winter tires are installed on the various vehicles that you use during the winter months. Whatever toys you have for the warm weather are stored away.

Looking for a 2015 primer, Business Week as an informative 2015 User Guide. 

This past summer we were in "ouch" territory for gas prices, while now gas seems positively cheap. There are a ton of folks speculating that with cheaper gas bigger vehicles will be more popular (they have constantly remained popular), while demand for smaller vehicles will decrease. This plays up to the folks that for one reason or another remain ambivalent towards electric cars.

In the meantime the Canadian budget is taking a hit, with a smaller surplus than anticipated a few months ago. When oil drops from $100 to $80 a barrel it makes a huge difference.

Yes...the various speculations could fill several hard drives or set up residence in "the cloud". 

 This week end is the Classic 24 Hour at Daytona.




The Digital Influence

A refreshing perspective of the digital influence in the purchase decision process. 





The New Rules of Selling

We all know, we all heard about it, hopefully most of us practice it. A refreshing summary on the rules of selling...

We urge you to share with your freinds and collegues.






Cars Online 2014

The latest edition of Cars Online by Capgemini...always thought provoking.




The Connected Car

An informative interview that provides insight on the connected car...

The fast-growing German luxury automaker has added a Silicon Valley ethos into its auto development, aiming to make customers even happier with its cars.

Audi R8 coupe

Hudi says electronics is the motivating force for innovation in modern automobiles, from the engine to the gearbox to the driver experience. So Audi works closely with semiconductor and software companies to bring research ideas into its cars. But getting into position to create a connected car, the car as social medium, took a good deal of planning and time and a major restructuring of how the premium car manufacturer works with its supply chain, mixing traditional automotive suppliers with technology companies. In an interview with MIT Sloan Management Review contributing editor Michael Fitzgerald, Hudi described the transition Audi is making and his perspective on the future of the auto industry.

To what extent does Audi think about the car as a social medium?

The car and social media belong together. Not long ago the car was the least networked part of our life. We started to change this and we offer interaction now, well integrated in our user human-machine interface (HMI) concept into the car. By the end of this decade, I’m convinced that every premium car around the world will be 100% networked. It will be part of the [Internet] and offer customers the functionality they want.

Audi potentially will have access to totally new kinds of customer data. Is that considered important to Audi?

We do not gather data from the device. The contract is completely customer-focused. It is a classic Android account with a Gmail account.

Did you talk about setting it up so Audi would have more access to that data?

Customer data are not in our focus. The Audi Smart Display’s main focus is to give the customer a better user experience. But what is in our focus is the data [that] we can deliver for our cars, [to improve how] cars interact together.

I’ll give you an example: since 2011, we have had online traffic conditions in our cars, done withINRIX. We send out anonymous information from our cars to see how traffic is moving, and every three minutes we give customers anonymized information about where cars are moving, where there is a traffic jam. We have big potential for doing applications where cars inform each other whether there is an alert or additional information. That is our main focus.

Is extending the brand by bringing Audi into the house part of the strategy?

The consumer should have the flexibility to use the entertainment system in the car and also take it to the home. It is a very modern way of connecting the consumer world with the automotive world. We say they rationally belong together, and this is another step where we fuse them together. In 2010, we were the first car manufacturer to offer a Wi-Fi hotspot in the car. This is another good example where we fuse consumer devices with our cars.

How did you break free of the traditional five- to seven-year product development cycle?

Look at our modular infotainment platform, introduced with the new Audi A3 in 2012. This is a paradigm shift in bringing the technology of consumer electronics as fast as possible into the car. We used to make a specification and get in contact with first-tier infotainment suppliers like Harman or Bosch or Alpine. They would propose a kind of systems approach, and we would evaluate it and work together to realize the infotainment system.

The problem is, the approach they proposed always had a time delay, typically five to seven years, from the latest and greatest consumer electronics. Imagine all the path-changing things coming from the consumer world, like navigation, like speech recognition, connectivity, HMI. We thought [it] was no longer possible to continue doing it this way, so we separated the hardware into slow-moving and fast-moving parts within such a system, and we also separated the software.

We work with technology partners from the consumer world, like NVIDIA, for the fast-moving parts, and the slow-moving parts we’re still doing with the traditional first-tier automotive suppliers.

When you have separated these fast- and slow-moving parts, and you have a powerful technology partner like NVIDIA as your chip supplier, you also need the software running on the computer. For that reason we founded e-Solutions, a joint venture together with Elektrobit, a Finnish company. We are now able to completely follow the cycle of consumer electronics, where every one and a half to two years we are able to bring an over-the-air update of a new entertainment platform. But it took time to build up all the competencies and necessary pieces. We started building on this idea in 2003.

You mentioned that one obstacle was bringing together these technology providers, to start and launch a joint venture. What about internally? What kind of pushback did you get, and how did you overcome it?

We realized the gap between consumer electronic cycles and car electronic cycles was getting too big. This was the starting point of the discussion. Our traditional first-tier suppliers were too slow, and it was too complicated to be quick and innovative that way. So in 2009, we made the proposal at the board level, the CEO/CTO level and the marketing board level and finance side.

We had no resistance from the top or the other departments. We were surprised that we got the approval so quickly. You always get some questions, but it went really perfectly with the mobile infotainment platform. That was, in retrospect, absolutely convincing — [a situation] where our CEO and CTO and top management fully stood behind the step. They saw that we’re playing in a completely new Champion’s League, where we’re directly dealing with NVIDIA and Qualcomm and Google. In 2012, we introduced our modular infotainment system in the A3. In 2014, we’re bringing the virtual cockpit in the new TT. Next year we are bringing the Audi Smart Display based on an Nvidia Tegra chip. This cycle was, five or seven years ago, impossible even to think about.

What drove the recently announced Open Automotive Alliance with Google?

Our partnership with Google goes back to 2004, to sync Google Earth with the car. Since 2009, we have these features in our cars, and have had a big success with that in the United States. Today, 80% of all smart phones around the world have Android, so it was obvious that it would be an appropriate way to interface the devices with the car. We are designing the interfaces now, and next year, we’re going to have the first cars on the road where these devices are interfaced to the car. The customer already has an Android and Google account coming with his smart phone, and needs no additional account to bring this access to the car.

How does something like the Audi Smart Display come about, internally?

On the development side, we talked about what the next generation of rear seat entertainment is. No tablet fits to the car in a way that guarantees it will still interface to the car when it is updated, or won’t have problems with high and low temperatures and so on. All the existing rear-seat solutions are fixed, they’re not mobile. We want to be able to cope with the consumer technology cycles. We have partnerships with NVIDIA and we have our e-solutions joint venture, so why shouldn’t we make a smart tablet that perfectly interfaces to the car? Because of our earlier success with entertainment systems, it was easy to convince people internally. We built a prototype last fall. And this was so convincing in appearance and basic functionality, we first decided to bring it to market very quickly and to show it at 2014 CES.

Will this be transformative for customer relationships? It gives you access to customers in a way you’ve never had before. Is that part of your thinking?

The major idea behind it is to give our customers innovative and unique functionality they don’t get at other car manufacturers. Even if they would get it from another car maker, we always try to make ours better integrated into our cars.

What does Audi gain from the car becoming a social medium?

Customers do not want to leave the network of their lives behind when they get in a car. They want to use their time wisely, to adjust to changing schedules and commuting conditions. And the Audi is now in a position to keep them connected. In the future, our cars will take even great strides to gather, analyze and present vast amounts of information and personal updates available on the Cloud.

Typically, car owners have relationships with dealers more so than the manufacturer. Does the car as social medium change that dynamic?

Having more socially connected cars will help our customers communicate better with dealers in terms of services they need or appointments they want to schedule. We are working on tools that help Audi customers find a faster route to a car [that is] configured the way they want it. This way, Audi, our dealers and our customers can always remain in a closer loop of communications than ever before. But Audi is not intruding on a dealer’s relationship with a client.

Do you interact with counterparts at Volkswagen’s other units?

We interact in a very, very efficient and near-perfect way! It would be silly if we didn’t realize the symmetries in the huge Volkswagen group. We have identified and defined all the systems of the car in modules. In areas like switches or connectors — things that are not relevant for the brand or image of the car — we work perfectly together. We also devise work responsibilities so that some parts, our colleagues at Volkswagen are handling, and others we are handling at Audi. But in systems where it’s necessary to differentiate by directly appealing to the customer, those are handled by each brand.

What’s been the most challenging facet of trying to achieve digital transformation?

You have to identify the best technologies in the world and have the confidence to integrate them as fast as possible into systems. I’m in the great situation that electronics inside the car, inside Audi, have already gone through a lot of the transition process to bring them up to speed with the international way of thinking, the international way of development. We’ve had a development lab in Silicon Valley since 2001. Since 2008, I also have a development center in Beijing. I have a small office in Korea and in Tokyo.

How we interact and develop in the worldwide network with Audi headquarters here in Ingolstadt gives us a lot of open-mindedness and flexibility.