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Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:47

The Sci-Fi Shop of the Future

Written by Thomas Franklin

The week of Jan 13, 2014, Ford Motor Co. announced the completely re-engineered Ford F-150 pickup truck featuring aluminum from the hood to the tailgate, 700 pounds lighter than the previous model. Mercedes Benz introduced the next C-Class sports sedan with a body built mostly of aluminum, and Audi’s A8 luxury sedan had an aluminum chassis almost 20 years ago. At the time an Audi executive said, “there are only a handful of shops capable of repairing it. It has to be shipped to one of those centers to be fixed.”  For them the next step is the doors and the body. And aluminum isn’t the only challenge for collision repair centers. The BMW Electric 13 is mostly made from plastic-like carbon fiber.

If this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Ford has teamed with MIT and Stanford University to make self-driving cars more intuitive. Radar-like LiDAR infrared sensors bounce infrared light off objects as far as 200 feet away to generate data to make a 3-D map to plan a path to safely avoid pedestrians, bicycles and other vehicles. Recently a blind “driver” at the Santa Clara Blind Center” made a completely safe shopping trip in a self-driving car, preprogrammed by a Google engineer. The repair facility of the future will also be faced with vehicle programming systems, radar-like systems, mapping devices and more. These technical advances will strain collision shop finances as more tools, equipment and highly trained technicians are required. But how will this affect a shop’s marketing strategies?

The most forward looking shop owners may well realize the great marketing potential that these technical advances offer. The new generation of young adults is already more tech-savvy than most shop owners. The Internet and cell-phone advances have made this generation well aware of the need to keep on top of new technology. The shop that positions itself as a leader in new automotive repair technology can capture the “hearts and minds” of this generation if handled correctly. What should a shop do?

Because more and more people are turning to the web when shopping for a repair facility, a shop should turn the home page into bold advertisement for the shop’s technical know-how. While young people may be keenly aware of applications for their tablet, cell phone and computer, they are not likely to know much about repair challenges a shop faces when repairing their late model vehicle. Images of damaged aluminum and carbon fiber parts with captions explaining a little about these challenges may capture their attention. A little research should let you know how many shops in your area are equipped to deal with these repair challenges. If you are one of the few that can do it, this is a prime time to shout out your superiority over the competition, not just in general but with specific numbers.

Photos and information about equipment may not impress a vehicle owner looking for a repair, but insurance executives who check out your website will definitely be concerned with the makes and qualities of your frame machine, welding equipment, electric and hybrid handling processes and more. It’s important to provide educational information for these different publics on your site and in your printed literature. Most of what you put on the web can also be inexpensively reproduced in some simple printed handouts for less web-savvy customers who come to the shop.

The next step in demonstrating a future-orientation can be accomplished with employee uniforms, data-entry pads and display screens that can show a repair prospect shop areas where his or her vehicle will be processed in a way that is different from the competition. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to put technicians into star-trek-like uniforms with labels that say “hybrid specialist”, “autonomous vehicle specialist” and more. Customers should feel confident that this shop can handle the vehicle that has become a sort of robot, sensing the driver/passenger’s preferences in temperature, seat position, music, lighting and destination.

As a shop moves more into servicing late model vehicles with these futuristic advances, it would be wise to re-imagine the shop in a futuristic way. Even the furniture in the waiting area could be fashioned after airport seating and modernistic showroom designs. Large blown-up photos on the wall of late-model vehicles with captions can complete the image of a forward-looking shop of the future. Website and social media sites are great places to capture images of a space-age shop, service areas and personnel. Shops that grabbed the position of first to have water-borne paint, aluminum welding and frame machines, and high-tech sensors to handle on-board computer systems, could now be the first in the area to be recognized as the Sci-Fi shop of the future.

Read 1921 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 17:45