New Study Finds Car Buyers Warming Up to AI and Automation

By Mia Bevacqua

Artificial intelligence (AI) used to be the stuff of science fiction movies. But now it’s everywhere – including the dealership showroom. And a new study finds customers welcome the technology as part of the car-buying experience.

Car Buyers Give a Thumbs-up to AI
AI is computer technology that performs tasks that traditionally required human intelligence. The concept is beneficial when it comes to personalization – a sales tactic that tailors a particular product to an individual. AI and automation can quickly sift through vast amounts of data to find pertinent, personal information.

You might think such a strategy would be a turn-off to buyers, but it’s not. A new study from Cox Automotive shows that 67% of consumers believe technology-derived personalization will improve the car buying experience. Furthermore, 63% believe car ownership will be enhanced through personalization.

Dealers agree that AI and automation will lead to better customer experience. Of those surveyed, 72% were on board with the concept.

“Automotive retail is going through a period of transformation right now,” says Marianne Johnson, chief product officer at Cox Automotive. “AI is not just a buzzword. It’s already impacting the way consumers gather information about cars, learn about which car to purchase and decide when to interact with a dealer. Artificial intelligence is also helping dealers become more efficient and transparent and deliver a better consumer experience.”

Personalization No Longer Viewed as “Creepy”
It’s eerie how much some companies know about you. That “creepy” factor has made some consumers paranoid about privacy issues linked to data mining and personalization.

But, apparently, most car buyers welcome such tactics. The cox study found 68% of consumers don’t mind dealers using personalization if it enhances the vehicle-buying experience. What’s more, 76% of consumers expect their dealer to know something about them before they walk through the door.

In fixed ops, that figure is even higher. A whopping 88% of vehicle owners expect their dealer to know something about them when they reach out for service.

It All Comes Down to People and Ethics
Overall, what the study suggests is that consumers don’t mind Big Brother – as long as he’s on their side. It all comes down to ethics and using technology to do what’s right for the customer. Cox recommends employing AI to become a trusted advisor, rather than a seller of products.

And that’s what consumers want. Of those surveyed by Cox, 74% said they feel a personalized experience at the dealership is important. Buyers also want a human to be part of that customized interaction – 62% said they would prefer to sign the final documents in person rather than online.

Currently, at the dealership level, AI is enhancing human interaction rather than replacing it. The technology promises to be an increasingly useful tool, as long as dealers learn to employ it.