Held at the Birmingham NEC on 9th November, Automotive Management Live welcomed over 1,300 automotive retail specialists from across the UK. Our team, who manage data from dealer management systems, found the live streams and workshops useful in helping us shape our future direction, and enjoyed chatting to fellow automotive professionals.

Here we reflect on the key themes we saw emerging from the event.

AI is everywhere

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has exploded in 2023, and the automotive industry is no exception. We saw AI used in website chatbots, in scanners that checked for vehicle defects, and in marketing activities, for instance replying to online reviews. A representative from technology company Phyron explained how AI will be selling cars from 2025, using techniques such as videos with AI-powered voiceovers. The customer journey will be AI-enabled throughout, right up to creating customer invoices. We expect to see a continued increase in demand for smart technologies in automotive production, marketing, retail and services.

Self-service is growing in importance

Like AI, we saw strong growth in self-service technologies at the conference. At dealer groups in particular, there was a definite trend for technology that supported no-contact options, particularly for servicing. We observed technology for online service bookings and online check-in, providing clear opportunities for up-selling during the servicing process, such as key battery replacement. We also saw technology such as lock boxes for keys to support the self-service process. This is expected to change the role of service desk staff, freeing them for other tasks.

EVs are coming for every retailer

Panel discussions during the event explored the growing impact of electric vehicles (EVs). While a majority of retailers have not yet sold an electric vehicle, legislation and the growth of the second-hand EV parc means that every retailer will soon need to accommodate them. Conversely, it is expected that petrol and diesel vehicles will start to have a longer lifespan as consumers cling to the old technologies, meaning that dealer groups will compete more strongly with independents to work with this older parc.

The workshop sector will also need to accommodate electric vehicles. While service intervals are expected to remain the same, a panel discussion led by Auto Trader forecast a 50% decline in repairs for EVs and predicted that services will become a simple inspection. The exception will be for tyres, where the higher torque of EVs will lead to an increase in wear.

The agency model will lead to a strategic shift

A panel discussion with the MD of Volvo Financial Services discussed how manufacturers are increasingly moving towards an agency model, where the car buying transaction is carried out online and the retailer prepares and hands over the car. This will lead to changes in a retailer’s approach to the second-hand vehicle parc, increase the need for renewed focus on servicing, and drive the requirement to build customer loyalty in new ways.

The 2024 conference dates have already been announced; it will be held on 13th November at the NEC. We look forward to seeing what innovations have occurred between now and then!