Greatly improved manufacturing quality and the advent of driver assist systems means there are now fewer breakdowns and fewer crashes, and that means fewer repairs are required. In Japan the number of vehicle accidents has fallen more than 60% since the early 2000s and have dropped on average 30% in major European markets – where people tend to drive more quickly - and so aftersales have to move with the times and quickly.
It means greater emphasis on connectivity, mobility and personalisation, said Vincent Wijnen, Vice President after sales, customer quality and training at Nissan Europe. He plans not only to halt the decline – the aftersales market dropped by 5% last year and a 6% shrinkage is expected in 2017 - but boost aftersales business by 40% through 2020.
Outlining Nissan's future after sales strategy he said the company will introduce connectivity, personalization and mobility services in order to create further revenue streams.
He said: “The motor industry is behind the curve against other high tech industries because historically we have not given the consumer a lot of choice - we have taken a very much one size fits all approach which no longer works in the 21st century. Other industries offer many more choices and technology is revolutionising the car business. There are also opportunities in terms of personalisation of vehicles and the way people use their cars. This will drive profitability and growth.”
His boss, Alliance chief Carlos Ghosn, has said that there will be more changes in the automotive industry over the next five years than in the past 20. Wijnen added: “Technology is not only changing the cars but also the manufacturing process and logistics. People are now driving 10% less than they did 10 years ago. Driver assist systems have reduced accidents which has reduced the damage repair business - a big profit centre. We have to find new ways to generate business and we will do that through connectivity and personalisation.”
Nissan has specialist teams based in Japan and France working in the area of infotainment, telematics, preventative maintenance, geofencing, advanced driver assistance as well as mobility services such as robot taxis, car-sharing and on demand multi mobility services. In London the company is partnering with ride-hailing service Uber with its electric Leaf model and has also launched a car-share project in Paris.
Wijnen said: “The technologies are already there, we now need to make them make available around the world, including emerging markets.”
In terms of personalisation, customers buying Nissan's new Micra are being given more choice on interior and exterior colours and trims with up to 1,000 combinations available to tailor cars to individual tastes. This was pioneered on the Juke and has been so successful that this model is now in the brand's top three most profitable in terms of accessory sales. Wijnen said this level of personalisation will be spread through the Nissan range in the future.
However, there are limits. One person's taste may not appeal to buyers in the used car market. Wijnen said that there are restrictions on what combinations can go together, particularly matching interior to exterior. "We have to protect the customer to some degree in terms of residual values," he added.
Connected car devices are being fitted in cars sold in Japan and India which will allow Nissan to track such things as vehicle service times and parts failure rates. These will be rolled out globally through 2020. They could also be useful tools for insurance ratings tracking how cars are used. But Wijnen said that there is a need to be careful about how data is used. He added: “The customer must be protected at all times.
Dealers, he said, will benefit through customer retention. “Currently they see customers once a year and do not know what happens in the meantime. They will get a much better understanding of how their customers are using their cars.
“We have to be careful about what we do with the data and who uses it. We have to ensure it is safe and that we comply with all legislation. Data and personalisation will help dealers hold on to their customers and to help sell a car in the first place. Customers only enter a dealer once these days having done all their research on line. A salesman therefore only has one shot, you don't sell a car through a brochure anymore.”