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Last week, Wired magazine featured an article describing Audi’s ambitious plans for robots in local dealerships. A remote technician at Audi headquarters controls the “Audi Robotic Telepresence” robot. According to Wired magazine Audi claims that “the robot mechanic will improve speed and accuracy of service and create an improved ownership experience for the customer.” The robot can roam around your service bay independently and view and chat with technicians. Audi is apparently testing them at 18 dealerships and plans to install them at 100 dealerships across the country.
Technology presents many opportunities to create a more efficient service department. As vehicles become increasingly complicated, the access to OEM master technicians, on demand via video, is an excellent resource for dealership technicians. The ability of the master technician to actually see the obstacle that a dealership’s technician is experiencing, and assist them in troubleshooting these issues, is fantastic. The fact that the robots are autonomous, however, is questionable. During times in which technicians don’t need assistance, the robot has the ability to roam around your service department and see what technicians are doing.
OEMs are increasing their presence in dealerships in many ways. Through such demands as having to transform dealerships into look-alikes; and being held to incredibly high standards for the customer experience; dealers are already under a microscope.
It is questionable just how welcome these Big Brother robots will be in dealerships; from technicians to service managers to dealers themselves. And could there possibly be future plans for actual customer interaction?
I can certainly imagine an OEM wanting to interview customers as they leave a dealership’s service department to get immediate feedback, rather than await the results of a CSI survey, that may or may not be completed. How long before auto manufacturers want to supervise a dealership’s service department and it’s sales floor?
Using this type of technology for video conferencing; on demand access to assistance; and to bring an OEM technician to the vehicle; is certainly efficient. However, if auto manufacturers use this system to virtually supervise technicians within dealerships, allowing the robot complete autonomy, this could present problems. How welcome this technology will be, and to what extent Audi uses it to keep track of what a dealer’s techs are doing, is yet to be seen.
Would you welcome this OEM controlled robot in your service department?