The clean, white, loft-like atmosphere is accented by exposed brick on the walls. Here in a former industrial hall in Zona Tortona, the trendy district in the northern Italian metropolis of Milan, Opel presented its perspective on the future of mobility during its media event ‘The Future of the Car Starts Now.’
Three models were featured: the Opel car of tomorrow, the Monza Concept, the contrasting original Monza sports coupé, produced from 1978 to 1996, and next to it the Opel car of today, the new Astra, which will be a mainstay in the compact class in the coming years. The audience that viewed these three vehicles consisted of automotive and technical writers, bloggers, and lifestyle journalists.
Dr. David Voss, Customer Experience Europe, was one of the Opel representatives moderating the event and demonstrating the brand’s groundbreaking technologies. In an interview with Opel Post, Voss speaks about the company’s current projects and the trends in the sector.
Mr. Voss, let’s begin with a question referring to your job position. What exactly does a Customer Experience Expert do?
My job is to make sure that people are aware of the Opel brand and our innovative products, that they have positive experiences with them, become customers, and stay with us over the long term. The idea is that satisfied customers become loyal customers, and loyal customers become enthusiastic brand ambassadors. Events such as the one we held in Milan allow us to reach opinion leaders and try to win them over for our agenda.
»We want the customers to know that OnStar offers much more than just one great service.«
– David Voss –
Which theme was the agenda based on in Milan?
Connectivity. This is a fast-paced development that has a major influence on our lives. Not only does it make it easier for us to network whenever we want, but it also enables heating, refrigerators, and cars to become part of the ‘Internet of Things’ and therefore to be connected with each other.
How much connectivity is in the new Astra?
The Monza Concept represents the vision that Opel is aiming for in terms of efficiency and connectivity. Now with developments such as Opel OnStar in the new Astra, we want to show the great progress we have made in achieving this vision. One of the key objectives of the event was to communicate this message. And we succeeded in doing that together.
In addition to connectivity, OnStar technology also focuses on passenger convenience and safety. What is your main message to customers when you present the online and service assistants?
We want them to know that OnStar offers much more than just one great service. Security is really important for some customers, so OnStar acts as a guardian angel in the car, always ready to help. On the other hand, other customers are interested in connectivity and the option of going online via the WLAN hotspot in the car with a 4G LTE connection if they want to stream music, for example. Still other customers love the improvements in convenience that OnStar provides, such as being able to request a navigation address from a ‘real person’ – an Opel consultant – during the ride.
What has been the initial feedback from Opel OnStar users since the market launch in August?
Very positive, especially on the one-year test phase during which we provided OnStar services free of charge, including the WLAN hotspot. Actually, OnStar live never ceases to impress. Even in Milan. Some lifestyle bloggers, for example, have described the technology as science fiction and were skeptical until I demonstrated OnStar live in the Astra. After that, they were convinced.
»OnStar makes it possible for cars to communicate properly with each other, which in turn allows them to know what is going on around the next bend before they even get there.«
– David Voss –
One development that can also be traced back to connectivity is that new social trends and lifestyle and mobility concepts are emerging as a result of ever-increasing connectivity. In the so-called sharing economy, not only do we share apartments for holiday travel, but also cars. One way Opel is supporting these developments is with CarUnity, a private carsharing app.
CarUnity got off to a very good start even though it was not officially launched until the end of June. In the meantime, there are more than 1,500 available cars and over 5,000 registered users. We are now working on making CarUnity successful in Germany, and we have every confidence in it. We are focusing our efforts especially on the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region and Berlin.
Just like CarUnity, flinc is a total success. Currently 9,000 rides are organized and completed every month via flinc, and the number is rising. Since both carsharing and ridesharing services are closely linked and complement each other very well, we are working on combining flinc as a technology platform with CarUnity by 2016. The goal is to offer a mobility service that combines the benefits of both services. As you can see, we are continually growing Opel from a traditional car manufacturer to a mobility service provider through these services.
We are already delivering real results today with our safety assistance systems, such as the front collision warning system with automatic emergency brake and the road sign recognition and lane departure warning assistants. Last year at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress in Detroit, Opel presented an Insignia that can drive autonomously in certain situations, for example, in stop-and-go traffic. And the Opel OnStar system gives us one more way to connect cars with each other.
OnStar makes it possible for cars to communicate properly with each other, which in turn allows them to know what is going on around the next bend before they even get there. This increases passenger safety significantly. The first GM vehicles with partial autonomous drive will be ready for the market in around two years.