Q&A: Breaking new ground with telematics in Mexico
David Colon, ConnectedDrive manager for BMW Group, Mexico, on introducing premium telematics services to Mexican consumers.
This is shaping up to be a hectic year for BMW’s connected services. In June, the company said it would make ConnectedDrive standard on most of its 2014 models. And it has also announced upgrades to the BMW iDrive user interface while expanding the ability for customers to add infotainment services after they purchase the vehicle.
In Mexico, Latin America’s second largest economy, ConnectedDrive will launch in the last quarter of 2014, and it will be standard for vehicles in the 2015 model year. As BMW prepares to introduce the service, David Colon, ConnectedDrive manager for BMW Group, Mexico, is putting together a puzzle of his own: How to create a network of content and support services that will work seamlessly.
He spoke to TU’s Susan Kuchinskas about how to tailor BMW's portfolio of connected services for Mexican consumers.
What are the challenges you're facing as you prepare for BMW's ConnectedDrive launch in Mexico?
We have to gather all the portfolio of services we are planning. [We are] looking for the right suppliers to provide the services we want, and also creating the infrastructure [to deliver them]. The portfolio differs from market to market, and that of Mexico may differ from the BMW vision overall. We are in the final details of the contracts and arrangements, and we do have a set of providers who are giving us the content we need.
Some services we will not be able to deliver because the infrastructure is not yet set up. For example, if you're driving an electric vehicle and looking for a charging station, the public infrastructure in Latin American markets is not out there. There are only small pieces in huge cities, but not enough to deliver this as a service. Imagine Mexico City with only three public charging stations at the moment – the biggest city in the world!
How do you refine BMW's global vision to appeal to local consumers?
Everything is about giving a premium connected service. That is the main focus of our corporate vision. … We have to look for the high-level offer while not overlooking the basic customer needs. Customers in Mexico City will be megacity customers: always on the run, always busy with their professional lives, always looking for connectivity in their lifestyle. Customers around the country are also very demanding in regard to premium products and services. The brand is well-known in Mexico for offering a luxury vehicle. Now the vision is to provide a premium standard in [connected car] services.
How do you create a premium feeling when consumers are not even familiar with telematics?
We have experience with developed markets, such as Europe and the United States. Our customers' way of thinking is very similar to those markets. [But it is going to be] a learning curve for the market, putting this kind of offering out there. The way customers behave and use these services will increase our understanding a lot in the future. That's why we are being so aggressive with our global strategy.
What U.S. telematics trends apply, and what trends are uniquely Mexican in infotainment?
We can't differentiate very far from U.S. customers; we differentiate a bit more from European customers. We're much influenced by the United States and its trends, and our customers are very similar to those in the U.S. In Europe, you'll see a bigger gap between a customer who lives in a big city one who lives in the surroundings. Mexican BMW customers, even though they live in other cities or states, they look for very similar things to the ones that live in Mexico City.
I see Mexico as a big market with a lot of potential. We have more than 20 plants from different OEMs. The production inside the country is enormous. [The country] has huge potential for connectivity and telematics. Our competitors are looking very closely at what we're doing, and this will create good expectation for the customer and a good competitive environment for everybody.
You're introducing something new, services that most consumers won't have heard of. How will ConnectedDrive be promoted and sold?
The ConnectedDrive project will be brand-new for Mexico, even though we [already] have functions in the vehicle that are related to the project. We're trying to make a lot of noise about it. We're using our dealers as a big tool and also doing marketing. A campaign that will announce this to potential and existing customers will start mid-2014.
How will you encourage subscriber retention?
It's inevitable that they will have to renew some services. Critical services will be for the vehicle’s lifetime, such as emergency call. Real-time traffic information has to be renewed. We're planning to give as much contact as possible to the customers, and we can offer many ways to renew the services. They can go to the dealership for a service appointment, call our customer hotline. We will have a store inside the vehicle to purchase immediately, or they can purchase through the customer portal. We'll take advantage of every point of contact we have with the customer. We're trying to keep it simple, keep it easy. And we hope this will give us a good amount of renewals.
Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.
For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2013 on Sept. 11-12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan/China 2013 on Oct. 8-10 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, and Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco.
For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013, The Automotive HMI Report 2013, Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.