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Steve Jobs and the Auto Industry

Steve Jobs and the Auto Industry
Joseph Olesh

With Steve Job’s resignation, we thought it fit to offer up a tribute, of sorts, to the legendary tech executive as he directly related to the auto industry. Three specific products of note have changed the way we listen to music, reinvented the way we use a cell phone and scaled down the laptop to be slightly wider than a manila folder.

iPod
iPod connectivity changed the functionality of a car’s audio console for the better. The USB interface became the hipper, sleeker version of the CD player. The consumer became able to access hundreds of albums and audiobooks, upgrading the value of any vehicle with the ability to receive it. We saw dealerships across the nation leveraging this new, affordable technology with iPod giveaways to help drive sales.

iPhone
While the iPod forced functionality upgrades from manufacturers, the iPhone revolutionized the entire dynamic between an automobile and its owner. To start, the iPhone brought all the iPod capabilities with it, so that users could enjoy their music via the same USB interface. The most significant innovation, however, came in the “Apps.” The automotive consumer could access information about the specific make and model they were interested in directly from the dealer lot, ultimately challenging the salesperson to become more informed and better prepared. We saw manufacturers develop apps that would allow a user to lock/unlock their car’s doors, start their engine, check for maintenance, and even set off the alarm in the case of an intrusion, all by way of their iPhone. Third-party companies like DealerApp have taken this technology one step further, developing an app for dealers to communicate directly with their customers and potential customers.

iPad
The iPad has changed the way dealerships and manufacturers communicate the finer details of their product to the general public. Where the iPhone brought convenience and functionality to the user, the iPad introduced a sleeker, more efficient presentation device for the salesperson. This new method of interaction brought all the functionality of a pen and paper to the cloud.

The irony of this particular article is that I’ve employed an opposite approach to that of what Mr. Jobs would use. I’ve delved into details and looked at these products in a vacuum. Jobs looks at the big picture — seeing every connection, every point-of-view. It was never about just developing a product, it was always about developing a culture. Borrowing an old adage from architecture, “It has to work and be beautiful, at the same time.” This level of attention to detail has led the general populous to trust the Apple brand more than any other on the market.

Auto dealerships, and the manufacturers they represent, understand the level of trust that is required for a consumer to purchase a car off their lot. A study in the way Jobs communicated culture before product details, showmanship and presentation over the mundane, just might lead to better, more efficient ways to communicate differentiating value propositions to a customer base.

We wish you the best, Mr. Jobs, and thank you for the inspiration.

 

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