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New Salesforce Research: Tech and Data Key for Auto Industry Struggling with Uncertain Future

auto trends

The automotive sector is grappling with external pressures and an unfamiliar landscape as it accelerates into the digital world. Everything from vehicle purchases to repairs is going virtual, with over-the-air updates fixing problems that used to require a trip to the mechanic. 

So, what risks and opportunities lie ahead for this vital industry?

Why it’s important: After a period of sustained demand, auto sales are beginning to slow. Automotive leaders across the industry are experiencing disruption from relative newcomers born out of the digital era. 

What’s more, rising prices, supply chain woes, investments in electric vehicles (EVs), new regulations, and global competition are impacting profit margins. 

Driving the news: Salesforce’s first-ever Trends in Automotive Report surveyed 500 decision makers from across the automotive industry, including OEMs, auto finance subsidiaries, and dealers from around the world. Findings highlight the challenging nature of doing business in the digital age:

  • For example, just 26% of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and 23% of retailers actually believe their companies have adapted well to selling online. 
  • And, less than one in five auto companies believe their digital storefronts are engaging, mobile-friendly, and provide accurate inventory data.

The customer perspective: Meanwhile, 99% of customers are dissatisfied with the traditional auto buying experience.  

  • The majority of customers want accurate, online price quoting and the ability to complete their loan applications digitally. 
  • Transparency and streamlined lending are at the forefront of customer demands but the industry is lagging far behind. Just 24% of automotive leaders reported that the prices on their website consistently match what customers actually pay. 

There’s hope: Auto companies now see new revenue models, underpinned by digital technologies, as a way to bridge that gap.

  • Companies are turning to subscriptions and partnerships as revenue generators – 68% of OEMs and 62% of retailers are already investing in Internet of Things (IoT) applications such as Apple CarPlay and smart home devices.
  • An overwhelming 93% of all auto companies surveyed agreed that first-party data, like website interaction, in-app usage, and purchase/service history, will help them substantially improve the customer experience. 

The Salesforce perspective: Achyut Jajoo, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Manufacturing and Automotive at Salesforce, explains:

  • “Connected vehicles offer an immense opportunity for the industry. We’re already seeing this today, with companies building new revenue streams from partnerships and subscription services. The real value, however, lies in the data companies can unlock from connected vehicles, and all of the opportunities it will create.”
  • “By harnessing the wealth of customer and vehicle insights from connected vehicles, automotive companies can deliver better offerings and personalized experiences at scale to improve the lifetime value of customer relationships. It’s no surprise that the companies in this report agreed that it’s their best bet to improve customer service.”

Zoom out: The transition to EV dominance, connected vehicles, and international competition will define who rises and who falls in the future economy. 

  • The U.S. just surpassed the 5% tipping point for the mass adoption of EVs. However, 85% of companies believe that the research and development cost of transitioning to EVs will be a substantial risk to the industry’s profits for the next five years. 
  • Half of companies surveyed reported they are investing heavily in activating first-party data from connected vehicles, with investments in IoT capabilities and driver experience at the forefront.
  • Chinese OEMs are outpacing their global peers when it comes to consumer adoption, mass-market pricing, manufacturing cost, and technological innovation. 
    • Matthew Simpkins, Automotive Regional Vice President (UK and EMEA) at Salesforce, explains: “The automotive industry in China is years ahead of anyone in this space, in terms of EV production, charging technology, and connectivity. That will become a point of competitive advantage and price differentiation as well.”

Go deeper: Download the full report here.


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