In these times of economic travail it’s hard to believe that car makers are leaving money on the table, but they are and they have for many years. With car makers and carriers wailing about how to get consumers to pay for content and services a very obvious multi-million dollar (Euro?, Yen?) opportunity for add-on business for dealers and for the OEMs themselves has been left undisturbed – and Roadside Telematics has the answer.
The amazing thing is that Roadside Telematics has been around beating a drum for its RoadMedic solution for more than 10 years – adding endorsements and winning awards – but failing to achieve much OEM recognition beyond Ford and Kia. The interesting thing is that this telematics solution requires no box, no call center, no fancy wireless connection, but it does require a smidgen of customer consent and a communications link to the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) – the same communications network leveraged by LoJack and OnStar for their stolen vehicle solutions.
The beautiful thing about RoadMedic is that it solves an age old problem for dealer and car maker alike: how to capture the crash parts and vehicle replacement business opportunity from new and existing customers that have gotten into accidents. A damaged or totaled car can mean a lot of things to a dealer, the vehicle owner or the car maker.
A damaged or totaled car can mean a chance to sell a new car or repair an existing car (still under a lease or other financing) with genuine, authorized parts. It can also mean the opportunity to provide roadside assistance and/or a loaner vehicle both of which services are already provided for in existing warranties or OEM sponsored roadside assistance plans, though the customer may not realize it. In others words, it is a customer service opportunity.
The primary purpose of the RoadMedic solution, as made clear by its name, is to deliver emergency contact information to police officers responding to accident scenes. The problem is that due to a wide range of circumstances the amount of time that elapses, on average in the U.S., before family members can be notified is six hours. Roadside Telematics has secured the support and assistance of the American Association of State Highway and Traffic Officials along with a variety of other health and safety affiliated organizations including: HIMSS, IEEE, AHIMA, IHE, CCHIT, HITSP and GHSA to encourage the OEMs to collaborate and cooperate on the development and deployment of a nationwide emergency contact locator system, like RoadMedic.
RoadMedic allows dealers to reach out to customers, with their consent and at their request, in the event of accidents to provide necessary services thereby strengthening the brand message. It’s a patented business proposition that Roadside Telematics calls “reverse retailing.” The Roadside business model is dependent upon customers providing their emergency contact information at the dealership point of sale. The business model calls for OEMs to pay Roadside Telematics on a per-vehicle basis which is included in the wholesale delivered price to the dealership, similar to the existing business model for OEM sponsored roadside assistance.It is hard to believe, but in an age of proliferating vehicle connectivity, cars can automatically notify public authorities of an emergency situation, but there remains no provision for expediting a connection to family members or other designated emergency contacts. OnStar rolled out a system nearly 10 years ago with a partner called Global Med-Net. But the Med-Net solution – customer endorsements of which are still visible on the company’s Website – was fax based and overreached somewhat by trying to integrate medical information.
The Roadside Telematics solution is officially characterized as handling health information in the form of emergency contacts. The Med-Net solution, in contrast, sought to include important medical history. This complicated the point-of-sale paperwork and when combined with the fax-based portion of the notification process proved fatal to the program. It was terminated in 2002. The Roadside solution will allow police officers using NLETS to tap into both the RoadMedic emergency contact database and DMV databases to locate appropriate emergency contacts – providing a critical customer service.
In fact, it is an even more reliable service than existing embedded telematics systems or even mobile phones because the notification is based on the police look-up of the VIN# and not on an unpredictable carrier connection.But it is the accident aftercare opportunity that is most intriguing for dealers. A customer will be able to call the dealer for accident aftercare services such as towing or to obtain a replacement car. Today, most customers are provided a wallet-sized Roadside Assistance card which is often misplaced. Worse, the average customer does not even think of adding the roadside assistance card to their wallet or purse.
At point of sale the customer can opt in for this accident aftercare and, in the event of an accident, the dealer will get an accident vehicle sales lead – which is where the patented reverse retailing model comes into play. The dealer then has the option to contact the customer to offer to repair the vehicle, with authorized parts, or replace it and/or to provide a loaner vehicle. Roadside Telematics estimates net average OEM results from RoadMedic implementation as rising from $5.5M to $23.4M over the first three years with corresponding revenue gains for dealers. Best of all, the philosophical objectives of the service fit well with the safety and security objectives of existing telematics sytems. Of course, there are also insurance implications to the Roadside Telematics proposition. There is no doubt that insurance companies will always want the earliest possible notification of an accident. The good news for insurance companies is that they are usually the first ones to get the call from a conscious driver, but in the event of a more severe accident they may not be contacted right away.
Some car companies, most notably Kia Motors, have embraced the Roadside model, though none have implemented it. Ford conducted a test of concept in Texas in 2004 and Volvo has committed to a test in Los Angeles. Roadside’s goal is to see the system put in place globally and allows that a typical OEM might even seek to reach out to existing vehicle owners to implement the system retroactively, while dealers may want to apply the system to certified pre-owned cars.
As someone who has bought four cars in the past 7-8 years and who continues to receive service notifications for cars I no longer own or that no longer exist (due to accident) this analyst sees a powerful business proposition for dealers, OEMs and insurance companies. As a dealer, I want to know when my customer needs a loaner or replacement car or maybe even a repair. As a vehicle insurer, I want to know when that vehicle, that may not yet be paid for, is damaged or destroyed and/or when and if the driver is injured. In fact, if the vehicle is going to be repaired, I will want it repaired with genuine parts. As an OEM, I don't want to lose a customer who may have lost their vehicle entirely. Clearly, car makers, insurers and dealers can all agree on the RoadMedic value proposition - the public authorities already have.