These days it is no longer enough for a car to boast an impressive 0-60mph acceleration rate or industry-leading fuel economy. The cars that fly off the showroom floors are also technological marvels. People spend a huge amount of time in their cars between the daily commute, family road trips and the hours passed in traffic jams, which makes the improvement of in-cabin features all the more important for brands that are looking to distinguish themselves. And as more and more consumers rely upon their smartphones and tablet devices to help them navigate through life, those same consumers expect their cars to offer a similar set of features. It’s now common to have a detailed touchscreen in the middle of a vehicle dashboard, acting as your portal to satellite radio, GPS navigation, bluetooth cellphone connectivity and even internet search engines. But is there a problem with forcing our automobiles to be more like our mobile technology? To many car enthusiasts all of this technology is destroying the pure joy of driving.
BMW, for example, has built a brand based on the undiluted passion of its drivers. People purchase BMWs because they want a powerful performance vehicle with a touch of luxury. But the German manufacturer has been pushing harder to connect technology and social media with its vehicles, and is rubbing some of their core audience the wrong way. Their ConnectedDrive platform involves some innovative driver assistance systems, as well as in-dash social networking through Twitter and Facebook. BMW is touting these new features online, through branded YouTube channels and Facebook fan pages. But instead of excitement from their fans, the luxury brand is seeing a good deal of backlash.
This trend was first reported by WaveMetrix, a website that looks at the ways people interact with brands online through social media trends. WaveMetrix has reviewed the available consumer data on some of BMW’s technology-focused videos from YouTube and Facebook. The spots themselves are a lot of fun. One of the pieces promotes BMW’s rear-view camera using an awkward teenage date. But BMW aficionados are not appreciating the joke. Those most interested in the brand are used to advertising that focuses on the performance of the vehicles, news from the racing circuit or the sleekest design rollouts. For them, this new focus on social media is alienating and confusing.
According to the WaveMetrix findings, 69% of all viewers of the ConnectedDrive branded content dislike what they see. 31% of them thought it is a strong concept in theory, but 74% of everyone who commented on BMW’s YouTube videos left negative remarks, specifically suggesting that these new features were unnecessary. It is apparent that BMW drivers aren’t interested in cars taking over the work of driving and navigation.
Of course, the vast majority of these news features aren’t aimed at BMW die-hards, but at the millions of casual drivers who do choose one vehicle to purchase over another based on feature sets and technological bells and whistles. Some random commuter looking at used cars in Glasgow may choose a BMW because of simple, in-dash navigation, as opposed to the amount of torque generated during turns. So while the data may show a poor reaction to this prestigious car manufacturer’s embrace of social media, chances are it won’t hurt their bottom line in any significant way.