Consumer experience demands a hands-on approach from automakers, Toyota’s Zack Hicks tells Paul Myles.

Connected car service providers cannot expect to have the in-car playing field left open for them by every carmakers.

Because, while many manufacturers are seeking, and cutting, deals with third-party service providers, Toyota sees the consumer experience as too important to leave wholly in the hands of another agency. That’s the opinion of Zack Hicks CEO and president of Toyota Connected speaking exclusively to Paul Myles at TU-Automotive Detroit 2018. He said: “In technology, it’s tough to build up all of the components and all of the software but there is also a balance to find between giving it all away to someone else to run that ecosystem because, then, what value are you bringing to the customer?”

Hicks said the issue revolves around the need to maintain control of the consumer’s in-vehicle experience. He explained: “This is particularly problematic when you have the opportunity to make an unique experience, which is what Toyota Connected is about. If the customer wants to share their data with us, we need to give them an amazing experience. The best example I can give is we can know enough about the customer and their routes that, if they want to participate, with the software accuracy if they are driving down a road they’ve never driven before, we know where they’re going. What we can do with that is say ‘it looks like you’re going to a soccer game do you want use to reroute round traffic and order a prepay parking bay?’”

Hicks sees a future where the automaker has a closer relationship with its consumer than has been possible to date. He said: “We can bring them services that makes their lives easier and making technology a more human experience. Today, this app-by-app experience or having a different experience from your mobile device to your in-vehicle one, we need to move to a situation where it’s seamless. A time when you get in the car and say: ‘I’m hungry’. Here we know you like Mexican food and we know what routes you usually travel and where there’s a new Mexican restaurant on that route. We also know you have three seat belts buckled so we can make a reservation for a party of three.

“This taking the data and making it work for the customer, if I leave it up to somebody else to do in the car, I don’t think they will do it right. Over time we have learned what the space we have as an automotive company where we can’t compete with Android and Apple but I can give you a much better experience in the vehicle than they can.”

Hicks also admitted carmakers will have to take a proactive approach to investment in the connected car infrastructure to ensure they will be in a position to deliver the experience consumers demand. He said: “This is a huge investment and we have already invested $1Bn in building our start-up company at the same time we created Toyota Connected at a time when the consumer is expecting new services from these vehicles. No longer do they expect when they buy the vehicle the transaction is over with the automotive company. With connectivity in the vehicle, consumer expectations have changed and carmakers have to rise to this challenge and invest whatever it takes to be able to deliver on that expectation.”

[Tele.Myles.2018.06.07]